How Did Absentee Voting Affect the 2020 U.S. Election?

Abstract

The 2020 U.S. election saw high turnout, a huge increase in absentee voting, and brought unified national Democratic control—yet, contrary to much punditry, these facts do not imply that vote-by-mail increased turnout or had major partisan effects. In fact, states newly implementing no-excuse absentee voting for 2020 did not see dramatically larger increases in turnout than states that did not. Focusing on natural experiments in Texas and Indiana, we find that 65-year-olds turned out at nearly the same rate as 64-year-olds, despite voting absentee at higher rates since they didn’t have to provide an excuse to do so. Being old enough to vote no-excuse absentee did not substantially increase Democratic turnout relative to Republican turnout, either. In sum, no-excuse absentee voting seems to have mobilized few voters and had a muted partisan effect despite the historic pandemic. Voter interest appears to be far more important in driving turnout.

Jesse Yoder
Jesse Yoder
5th year PhD Student

Graduate Student at Stanford University

Sandy Handan-Nader
Sandy Handan-Nader
3rd year PhD Student

Graduate Student at Stanford University

Andrew Myers
Andrew Myers
Research Fellow
Toby Nowacki
Toby Nowacki
3rd year PhD Student

Graduate Student at Stanford University

Jennifer Wu
Jennifer Wu
1st year PhD Student

Graduate Student at Stanford University

Chenoa Yorgason
Chenoa Yorgason
2nd year PhD Student

Graduate Student at Stanford University

Andrew B. Hall
Andrew B. Hall
Professor of Political Science

Professor of Political Science at Stanford University

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