American University
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Electoral reform, party mobilization, and voter turnout

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posted on 2023-08-05, 11:08 authored by Robert Stein, Chris Owens, Jan LeighleyJan Leighley

In this paper we explore the conditions under which candidates and party officials use electoral reforms (i.e., early voting) to mobilize voters. We draw upon a unique database that studies a sample of registered voters and matches their validated voting behavior with partisan campaign activities in each voter's respective county during the 2002 midterm election in Texas. We expect, first, that considerations of strategy and opportunity shape both parties' use of early voting to mobilize supporters and second, that the impact of their efforts on voter turnout is mediated by these elite strategies. Our empirical evidence supports our central thesis: without the efforts of political parties and their candidates, electoral reforms are likely to have a marginal effect on voter turnout. An important modification to our original thesis, however, is that the effectiveness of electoral reforms is dependent not only on whether political elites choose to take advantage of such rules in developing their electoral strategies, but also on party members' initial probability of voting absent any mobilization, a key feature distinguishing the effectiveness of Republican and Democratic mobilization efforts.



Rice University; Texas A&M University


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