"Early Voting and Late-Election Information" |  pdf

Abstract: Convenience voting (any form of voting that does not take place on Election Day at one's precinct) offers voters a "low-cost" method of voting, but at a price: those choosing to cast a ballot early forfeit their ability to incorporate late-election information into their vote. This information can matter for election outcomes: using a difference-in-differences design and variation in the availability of early voting, I find that voters who were only able to cast their ballot after the release of FBI Director James Comey's letter to Congress on October 28, 2016 were significantly more likely to vote for the Republican candidate. Normative questions arise: from an ex-ante point of view, would society benefit from a wider availability of early voting, or is early voting already too available? To answer these questions, I develop a model in which voters choose whether to vote early, late, or not at all, and where both information and the realized cost of Election Day voting affect whether a particular voter votes or not. I show that early voting is beneficial to society when 1) Election Day voting costs are correlated with ideological preferences and 2) late-election information is not too "big."

"Do Newer Methods Deliver? Re-evaluating the Impact of Universal Vote by Mail" | pdf

 Abstract: Universal vote by mail (VBM) systems offer a theoretically large decrease in voting "costs" to voters: ballots are mailed to all registered voters -- no request needed -- who may vote from home. However, previous studies find VBM leads to quite modest increases in turnout, contrasting the intuition from canonical costly voting models. In this paper, I use recently-developed estimation techniques appropriate for settings with variation in treatment timing and find that VBM leads to a mild increase in turnout. Having shown that these results are not simply an artifact of the chosen empirical specification, I turn to heterogeneity analyses to understand where VBM is most effective in boosting turnout. I find that VBM has its largest turnout effects in counties with higher baseline voter registration rates and higher baseline Democrat vote shares. Additionally, I find that turnout effects are largest in rural counties and in counties with older voters. 

Provision of Black Schooling in the Age of Disenfranchisement (co-authored with Brian Beach)