You are here

The Effects and Costs of Early Voting, Election Day Registration, and Same Day Registration in the 2008 Elections

December 2009

Barry C. Burden , David T. Canon , Kenneth R. Mayer , Donald P. Moynihan


This report assesses election reforms and the goal of creating a voting system that is more convenient for the citizens of the United States. Reforms are generally better at retention than stimulation, and they will only work if election officials are willing and able to implement them. It focuses on two voting practices, non-precinct place early voting and election day registration, to find out their effect on the lives of local officials, and on voter turnout. After analyzing both the county- level turnout from the 2008 presidential election, as well as the 2008 Current Population Survey at the individual-level, the results were consistent throughout. The most notable findings are that states are quicker to offer early voting in isolation, but election day registration increases voter turnout, while early voting on its own decreases turnout. Therefore, if reformers desire to boost turnout, they must allow election day registration, and begin combining early voting with same day or election day registration to produce any positive results.

Read Now

Policy Implications

The adoption of a new policy should always take into account the direct impacts and interactions that it has on voter turnout. In this case, the management and financial difficulties that a policy such as early voting on its own would create, could be too much to overcome. However, the implementation of combing this policy with election day registration can achieve completely altered, less challenging, results. The election officials and administrators are constantly seeking to find a benefit for themselves when a new policy is put into place. When they do not see a personal benefit in election day registration, same day registration, and early voting, their reluctance to offer these policies will only increase. The proposed actions with the least implication hurdles to jump through, for the highest number of officials, is going to be the way to attain advancements in future elections.

Find Similar Civil Rights, Minority Issues, & Civil Liberties Research
Find Similar General/Not Specific Research
Find Similar Government Operations Research