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Would Making Voting Easier Increase Turnout?

Dean Bonner December 17, 2015

In the wake of record-low turnout in both the primary and general elections in 2014, efforts to improve voter participation are under way. The senate is set to consider one reform—SB 450—that would require county election officials to mail ballots to every registered voter. Voters could return the ballots by mail or drop them off at vote centers that would be open during regular business hours for 28 days before elections. The PPIC Statewide Survey looked at the impact this reform might have on voter turnout.

We asked registered voters who do not always vote how likely they would be to do so in this scenario. Two in three (66%) said they would be very likely to vote. Strong majorities across parties concurred (72% Democrats, 67% independents, 65% Republicans), as did majorities across age, income, and education groups.

But this view is less frequently expressed among groups who are historically less likely to vote: Latinos (60%), voters age 18 to 34 (62%), those with only a high school diploma (59%), and those with household incomes under $40,000 (59%).

Attitudes about government matter as well. Those who say they have a great deal or a fair amount of interest in politics are much more likely than those with little or no interest to say they are very likely to vote (73% to 57%). And 69 percent of those who agree with the statement that voting gives “people like me some say in what government does” said they are very likely to vote. Among those who disagree with that statement, 60 percent said they are very likely to vote.

Overall, nearly half of registered voters who report that they vote part of the time, seldom, or never say this reform would make them very likely to vote (48% compared to 77% of frequent voters). These findings sugges
t that while this reform may not be a cure all, it could encourage Californians who say they don’t always vote to cast ballots more often.

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