Political Science rock stars

So, my timing wasn’t the greatest as I had to leave only 30 minute into this to catch my flight, but John Sides put together a panel today that included both Nate Silver and Ezra Klein (and some other really cool election polling experts, etc.).  I only got to stay long enough to hear Silver and Klein speak once each and it’s not like I really learned anything.  But I will say, Ezra was really, really funny.  And I did manage to snap this poor-quality photo of my wonk-hero:


Who does early voting help?

There’s a lot of talk about Republicans doing away with, or dramatically limiting, early voting in NC, as it is largely assumed that early voting benefits Democrats.  Well, among the more interesting research I saw at the PS conference I am newly back from, was that by my friend from way back at Ohio State, Barry Burden (and others), looking at how early voting combines with other election laws to affect turnout.  Here’s the abstract:

There is a general belief that all forms of convenience voting benefit Democratic
candidates because higher turnout generally benefits Democrats. In this paper we
consider the counterfactual that Democratic voters would have participated even without
the option to vote early or use same day registration. Drawing on our previous research,
we theorize that voting laws affect who votes in two opposing ways. First, by lowering
the costs of voting directly, more accessible voting laws influence turnout primarily by
retaining the most likely voters. Second, by dissipating the mobilizing effects of
traditional election day, convenience reforms open the door for groups and elites to
strategically target supporters, which could produce more partisan effects. We assemble
datasets of county-level vote returns in 2004 and 2008 and model these outcomes as a
function of early voting and registration laws, using both cross-sectional regression and
difference-in-difference models. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the results show that
early voting helps Republicans. Election day registration by itself benefits the Democrats,
as do combinations of laws that include same day or election day registration.

So, in NC, it’s not that you can vote early, per se, that advantages Democrats, its the fact that you can register and vote and the same time.   That’s the real key.  Interestingly, on its own without this feature, early voting advantages Republicans.   So, as NC’s voting laws may be revised, that’s really the key thing to watch for.  Shhhh, nobody tell the NC GOP about this.  Not that they’d believe a bunch of political scientists anyway.

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