Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Drivers Wanted: Motor Voter and the Election of 1996

Knack, Stephen (1998): Drivers Wanted: Motor Voter and the Election of 1996. Published in: PS: Political Science and Politics , Vol. 32, No. 2 (June 1999): pp. 237-243.

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Abstract

The first presidential election following implementation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 was also the first in the lifetimes of most Americans in which a minority of the voting-age population bothered to vote. While that outcome must be a source of embarrassment to many reform advocates, this study has shown that the turnout decline was in fact substantially slowed by registration reform. Moreover, the full effects of the key “motor voter” innovation have yet to be felt in at least two-thirds of the states, representing more than three quarters of the voting-age population. Similarly, the disproportionately large turnout decline among the young would have been even more extreme in the absence of reform, based on evidence obtained in this study. Little evidence of other progressive effects--by race, education, income, or mobility status--is found however.

Finally, although partisan identification and presidential voting moved in the Democrats’ direction between 1992 and 1996, registration reform appears to have slightly favored the Republicans. The shift toward Democratic ID and voting was largest in the states with the least reform, while the largest shift away from Democratic ID occurred in the states with the most extensive reform.

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