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Distance, Turnout, and the Convenience of Voting


  • Joshua J. Dyck
  • James G. Gimpel


Objectives. This research examines how distance factors into the costs associated with political participation. We hypothesize that the political geography of a voter's residence affects not only the likelihood that he or she will vote, but whether the voter will choose between traditional Election Day voting or nontraditional means, such as casting an absentee ballot by mail, or going to an early‐voting site. Methods. Using a geographic information system (GIS), we calculate Manhattan‐block distances between voter residences and their respective precinct and nearest early‐voting sites in Clark County, NV for the 2002 mid‐term election. We then use these calculated distances to predict, with multinomial logistic regression, the likelihood of nonvoting, precinct voting, and nontraditional voting. Results. Our evidence suggests that the cost of traveling to reach a traditional voting site is associated with nonvoting to a point, but the relationship between distance and participation is nonlinear. Distance to traditional voting sites is also highly associated with choosing to vote by mail. Would‐be nonvoters are more inclined to use proximate election‐day sites than proximate early‐voting sites, probably because they decide to vote so late in the campaign. Conclusions. Our findings have important implications for democratic theory, ongoing efforts to reform the electoral process, and the practice of voter mobilization.

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  • Joshua J. Dyck & James G. Gimpel, 2005. "Distance, Turnout, and the Convenience of Voting," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 86(3), pages 531-548, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:socsci:v:86:y:2005:i:3:p:531-548
    DOI: 10.1111/j.0038-4941.2005.00316.x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yosef Bhatti & Kasper Hansen, 2013. "Public employees lining up at the polls—the conditional effect of living and working in the same municipality," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 156(3), pages 611-629, September.
    2. Christine Fauvelle-Aymar & Abel François, 2018. "Place of registration and place of residence: the non-linear detrimental impact of transportation cost on electoral participation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 176(3), pages 405-440, September.
    3. Joshua J. Dyck & Nicholas R. Seabrook, 2010. "Mobilized by Direct Democracy: Short‐Term Versus Long‐Term Effects and the Geography of Turnout in Ballot Measure Elections," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 91(1), pages 188-208, March.
    4. Barbara Sgouraki Kinsey & Hugh Bartling & Anne F. Peterson & Brady P. Baybeck, 2010. "Location of Public Goods and the Calculus of Voting: The Seattle Monorail Referendum," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 91(3), pages 741-761, September.
    5. John Gibson & Bonggeun Kim & Steven Stillman & Geua Boe-Gibson, 2013. "Time to vote?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 156(3), pages 517-536, September.

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