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UCSD Researchers Say Voter's Choice Act Increases Voter Turnout

Speaker 1: 00:00 But California voters choice act was passed in 2016 as a way to modernize elections by giving people more flexibility on how they vote. The act allows voters to decide how, when and where to cast their ballot and now researchers are trying to find out if the flexibility of voter's choice act is changing. Who is voting? It's a university of California San Diego study called the new electorate project professor and chair of Uc San Diego's department of political science that cows are is leading the research professor. Cows are welcome. Thanks Jen. So why is it important to know who's voting and how the voter's Choice Act could impact that? Well this act is one of the biggest voting changes to come to California that nobody knows about. So it was only adopted by five counties in the 2018 elections. Five more well adopted in 2020 and it could be coming to San Diego sometime. Speaker 1: 00:53 It is an election near you and it really changes a changes the where we vote from moving from neighborhood polling places to more centralized vote centers. So we'll offer more services but be spread out a bit more thinly throughout counties. And, and every voter would get a vote by mail ballot a automatically, even if they hadn't asked for one. And so all of these combined, uh, are, are going to transform the way our elections happened from, from what I grew up with, which is voting down the street at the local elementary school or in someone's garage to a more modern system. And the really important questions that we wanted to ask, we were, one, how does this affect turn out overall and to how does it work for groups that have traditionally turnout at lower rates in California? So does it make our elections both a bigger electric, but also a more representative electorate? Speaker 1: 01:39 And, and as you mentioned in the 2018 elections, there were five counties in the state, uh, who made the switch to voting entirely by mail and through votes centers. Um, what did you find in terms of how that impacted turnout and how did the, the turnout in those counties compared to other counties? Yeah. So we can pot, we compared the boost and turnout that these five counties, Sacramento, San Mateo, Nevada, Napa, and Madeira, we combine, we compare their boost in 2018 compared to 2014 with the boost that we saw in, in the rest of the state. Uh, was important to look at that, those comparisons, because this was a huge high turnout election, more than half of voters turned out in this midterm. And so we wanted to look at at sort of whether these five counties went in a different trend from the rest of the state. Speaker 1: 02:24 What we found is that when we looked at voters overall, we saw about a three percentage point increase in turnout due to the voter's choice act. So that the rise and turnout was steeper from 2014 to 2018 in these counties that adopted the law than it was in all the other counties of the state. And in the primary is about a four percentage point increase. And could the increase in voter turnout just be attributed to competitive races are hot button topics that put, you know, really pushed people to the polls. Right. So that's why we looked at comparing that 2014 to 2018 boost in these two of states because this was a really high turnout election. We had a historically low turnout election in 2014 but then with Donald Trump and all the energy that we've seen in our elected in the last few years, we saw a big boost in 2018 across the board. Speaker 1: 03:12 But we saw an extra boost in these counties. And in our study we also took a few steps to uh, to control for things like the level of competition, how many tight races were there in a county. We measure that for each county in each year. Going back a few election cycles, ran a, a multivariate statistical model and basically it didn't change anything. We still saw the same boost when you controlled for what was going on and how competitive races were in a county. And we also ran separate models where we controlled for what the partisan trends where, how was voter turnout among various demographic groups? Well, it paralleled the rises that we saw in voter turnout overall. So for the vote young voters. So those 18 to 24, we saw the same kind of boost about, you know, three to four percentage points, uh, and, and, and perhaps even more in the primary. Speaker 1: 04:02 Uh, and, and we saw this in, in just about every county that adopted it, um, for Asian American voters or at least ones who had, who had names, uh, they can be clearly identified from voter rolls as being Asian American. We saw, we saw parallel increases to the same turnout, same kind of trends, same thing for Latino voters. Uh, so, so what this did was it kind of lifted all boats in turnout, or at least these three groups that we looked at as well as voters overall. And so then as the reform expands to more counties, are you able to predict what the impact may be? I think we are because there's still, most counties in California are not adopting the reform. So, so really what we have is we've kind of got this, this, this kind of control groups, right? Think of this as like a drug study. Speaker 1: 04:46 Some people take the placebo and then some people take the drug. We can compare the, the counties that didn't adopt the reform that with the ones that did in the same elections, featuring the same national political trends, the same hot political issues of the day, and see if you get a boost and turnout in the adopting counties. So the voter's choice act is and attempt to modernize elections. How modern are they without being able to just cast a ballot through an APP? Do you see that happening in the future? You know, that's a dream that people have been talking about for a long time, but there are a lot of, they're both state regulations, but there are a lot of concerns right over making sure that digital divides don't get reflected in a political divides, uh, making sure that security works. So I don't think we're going to be voting, uh, on computers in our hands for awhile. Speaker 1: 05:31 But if you do go to these voters centers there, it's a different type of experience than, than your neighbor's garage. And they're able to, you're able to vote at any precinct across the county. They're able to, to process, uh, you know, someone who's not registered to vote, they can register on that same day and they can process that well. And so it is a bit more of a high tech experience than, uh, than our old polling place. How do you see the findings of your project being used in the future? This is just one part of, of, uh, about six or seven different research projects looking at various voter reforms that are happening in California now. Ones that, you know, change the timing of local elections or, or make other changes. So, so we're just trying to put this information in the hands of the general public and in the hands of elected officials, uh, so they can make their new policy decisions with data. I've been speaking with that. Cows are the electorate project lead who is professor and chair of Uc San Diego's department of Political Science. Professor Cows are, thank you very much for joining us. Thanks so much for having me.

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UCSD Researchers are trying to find out who California's new Voter's Choice Act impacts.