Voting Centers Could Increase Turnout

New research from Rice University suggests central voting centers on Election Day could significantly increase turnout. The paper released in the Election Law Journal shows voters prefer a more convenient centralized voting system.

Harris County has multiple voting centers during early voting, but when it comes to Election Day you must cast your ballot in your precinct.

Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein says turnout has been shown to improve by as much as ten percent when people are able to vote at central polling location on Election Day.

"We found that it's more convenient to vote, not necessarily in your neighborhood at a small elementary school, but possibly downtown, where you work, where you shop, where you drive during the day or where you may be just simply recreating during the election day period."

Stein says one group in particular, undecided voters, is more likely to vote at a voting center rather than a precinct.

"We think that people who are late deciders, and not only undecided about who to vote for, but obviously also undecided about voting. If you made voting more convenient to them, they'll probably have an inclination to vote and may have already made their minds up, but again, very late. One of the things that we've done is not make voting convenient for our late deciding voters. We've made it much more convenient for early voting and mail-in voting for people who make their minds up well before Election Day."

There are 37 centralized early voting locations in Harris County. But on Election Day, there are hundreds of invidual precincts.

Stein says Travis County is experimenting with this model by allowing voters in the upcoming election to cast their ballot at any precinct location, while also adding six central voting centers at grocery stores.

 

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...