Political Behavior

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 841–869 | Cite as

Early Voting Changes and Voter Turnout: North Carolina in the 2016 General Election

  • Hannah L. WalkerEmail author
  • Michael C. Herron
  • Daniel A. Smith
Original Paper


North Carolina offers its residents the opportunity to cast early in-person (EIP) ballots prior to Election Day, a practice known locally as “One-Stop” voting. Following a successful legal challenge to the state’s controversial 2013 Voter Information and Verification Act, North Carolina’s 100 counties were given wide discretion over the hours and locations of EIP voting for the 2016 General Election. This discretion yielded a patchwork of election practices across the state, providing us with a set of natural experiments to study the effect of changes in early voting hours on voter turnout. Drawing on individual-level voting records from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, our research design matches voters on race, party, and geography. We find little evidence that changes to early opportunities in North Carolina had uniform effects on voter turnout. Nonetheless, we do identify areas in the presidential battleground state where voters appear to have reacted to local changes in early voting availability, albeit not always in directions consistent with the existing literature. We suspect that effects of changes to early voting rules are conditional on local conditions, and future research on the effects of election law changes on turnout should explore these conditions in detail.


Elections American politics Voting Political behavior Election reform Racial and ethnic politics 



The authors would like to thank Matt Barreto, Loren Collingwood, Mackenzie Israel Trummel and Tye Rush for their support and feedback on this project. We are also grateful to our anonymous reviewers. Replication files are available here:

Supplementary material

11109_2018_9473_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (537 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 536 KB)


  1. Alvarez, R. M., Bailey, D. , & Katz, J. (2007). The effect of voter identification laws on turnout. Working Papers 1267 California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  2. Amos, B., Smith, D. A., & Claire, C. S. (2017). Reprecincting and voting behavior. Political Behavior, 39(1), 133–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, C. J. (2007). The interaction of structures and voter behavior. In R. J. Dalton & D. K. Hans (Eds.), The oxford handbook of political behavior (pp. 589–609). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bentele, K. G., & O’brien, E. E. (2013). Jim crow 2.0? Why states consider and adopt restrictive voter access policies. Perspectives on Politics, 11(04), 1088–1116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berinsky, A. J. (2005). The perverse consequences of electoral reform in the United States. American Politics Research, 33(4), 471–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Biggers, D. R., & Smith, D. A. (2018). Does threatening their franchise make registered voters more likely to participate? Evidence from an aborted voter purge. British Journal of Political Science forthcoming.Google Scholar
  7. Bowler, S., & Donovan, T. (2012). The limited effects of election reforms on efficacy and engagement. Australian Journal of Political Science, 47(1), 55–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bradner, E. (2016). Why North Carolina is so important in 2016.Google Scholar
  9. Burden, B. C., Canon, D. T., Mayer, K. R., & Moynihan, D. P. (2014). Election laws, mobilization, and turnout: The unanticipated consequences of election reform. American Journal of Political Science, 58(1), 95–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burden, B. C., & Gaines, B. J. (2015). Presidential commission on election administration: Absentee and early voting: Weighing the costs of convenience. Election Law Journal, 14(1), 32–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davidson, C. (1992). The voting rights act: A brief history. In B. Grofman & C. Davidson (Eds.), Controversies in minority voting: The voting rights act in perspective (pp. 7–34). Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  12. Del Pinal, J. (1995). Hispanics-Latinos: Diverse people in a multicultural society. Washington, DC: Bureau of the Census.Google Scholar
  13. Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (1998). The Latino/a condition: A critical reader. New York, NY: NYU Press.Google Scholar
  14. Erikson, R. S., & Minnite, L. C. (2009). Modeling problems in the voter identification—voter turnout debate. Election Law Journal, 8(2), 85–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Giammo, J. D., & Brox, B. J. (2010). Reducing the costs of participation: Are states getting a return on early voting? Political Research Quarterly, 63(2), 295–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Graham, D. A. (2016). Have North Carolina republicans found a way to reinstate discriminatory voting rules.Google Scholar
  17. Graham, D. A. (2018). North Carolina’s landmark ruling against partisan gerrymanders.Google Scholar
  18. Grimmer, J., Hersh, E., Meredith, M., Mummolo, J., & Hall, C. (2017). Comment on voter identification laws and the suppression of minority votes. Unpublished working paper.
  19. Grofman, B., Handley, L., & Niemi, R. G. (1994). Minority representation and the quest for voting equality. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gronke, P. (2012). Early voting: The quiet revolution in American elections. In M. Streb (Ed.), Law and election politics: The rules of the game (pp. 134–148). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Gronke, P., Galanes-Rosenbaum, E., Miller, P. A., & Toffey, D. (2008). Convenience voting. Annual Review of Political Science, 11, 437–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hajnal, Z., Lajevardi, N., & Nielson, L. (2017). Voter identification laws and the suppression of minority votes. The Journal of Politics, 79(2), 363–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hanmer, M. J., & Traugott, M. W. (2004). The impact of voting by mail on voter behavior. American Politics Research, 32(4), 375–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hasen, R. L. (2005). Beyond the margin of litigation: Reforming US election administration to avoid electoral meltdown. Washington & Lee Law Review, 62, 937.Google Scholar
  25. Herron, M. C., & Smith, D. A. (2014). Race, party, and the consequences of restricting early voting in Florida in the 2012 general election. Political Research Quarterly, 67(3), 646–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Herron, M. C., & Smith, D. A. (2015). Race, Shelby County, and the voter information verification act in North Carolina. Florida State University Law Review, 43, 465–506.Google Scholar
  27. Hicks, W. D., McKee, S. C., & Smith, D. A. (2016a). A bipartisan election reform? Explaining support for online voter registration in the American States. American Politics Research, 44(6), 1008–1036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hicks, W. D., McKee, S. C., & Smith, D. A. (2016b). The determinants of state legislator support for restrictive voter ID laws. State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 16(4), 411–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Highton, B., & Wolfinger, R. E. (1998). Estimating the effects of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Political Behavior, 20(2), 79–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hill, D. (2003). A two-step approach to assessing composition effects of the National Voter Registration Act. Electoral Studies, 22(4), 703–720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hood, M. V., & Bullock, C. S. (2012). Much ado about nothing? An empirical assessment of the Georgia voter identification statute. State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 12(4), 394–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kaplan, E., & Yuan, H. (2017). Restrictive voting laws, voter turnout, and Partisan vote composition: Evidence from Ohio. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  33. Larocca, R., & Klemanski, J. S. (2011). US state election reform and turnout in presidential elections. State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 11(1), 76–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Leighley, J. E., & Nagler, J. (2014). Who votes now. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Neeley, G. W., & Richardson, L. E. (2001). Who is early voting? An individual level examination. The Social Science Journal, 38(3), 381–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Oliver, J. E. (1996). The effects of eligibility restrictions and party activity on absentee voting and overall turnout. American Journal of Political Science, 40, 498–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rigby, E., & Springer, M. J. (2011). Does electoral reform increase (or decrease) political equality? Political Research Quarterly, 64(2), 420–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Southwell, P., & Burchett, J. (2000). Does changing the rules change the players? The effect of all-mail elections on the composition of the electorate. Social Science Quarterly, 81, 837–845.Google Scholar
  39. Southwell, P. L., & Burchett, J. (1997). Survey of vote-by-mail senate election in the state of Oregon. Political Science & Politics, 30(01), 53–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stein, R. M. (1998). Early voting. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 62(1), 57–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stein, R. M., & Garcia-Monet, P. A. (1997). Voting early but not often. Social Science Quarterly, 78, 657–671.Google Scholar
  42. Timpone, R. J. (1998). Structure, behavior, and voter turnout in the United States. American Political Science Review, 92(01), 145–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Weaver, R. (2015). The racial context of convenience voting cutbacks: Early voting in Ohio during the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Presidential Elections. SAGE Open, 5(3), 2158244015591825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Williams, M. S. (2000). Voice, trust, and memory: Marginalized groups and the failings of liberal representation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Wolfinger, R. E., & Hoffman, J. (2001). Registering and voting with motor voter. Political Science & Politics, 34(1), 85–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wolfinger, R. E., & Rosenstone, S. J. (1980). Who votes? (Vol. 22). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah L. Walker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael C. Herron
    • 2
    • 3
  • Daniel A. Smith
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Hertie School of GovernanceBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Dartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  4. 4.University of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations