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Student Research Evaluates Effects of State Election Laws on Youth Voting Habits

Headshot of Christina Williams
Christina Williams

Christina B. Williams, a Clark Atlanta University senior and member of the Campus Vote Project (CVP) Research Collective, examined the possible impacts of state election laws on youth voter turnout in her senior thesis.

Leading up to and following the 2020 presidential election, numerous states passed legislation either expanding voter access, referred to as convenience voter laws, or restricting voter access. Christina’s research questioned how (if at all) these convenience and restrictive voting laws affected youth voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election.

The primary methodology used in this study was a survey of 82 young citizens (age 18-29), some of whom voted in the 2020 presidential election and some who didn’t. The survey asked youth voters to evaluate the impact of various factors on their decision to vote, including:

  • Availability of same-day voter registration in your state

  • Availability, duration, and accessibility of early in-person voting in your state

  • Availability, duration, and accessibility of no-excuse absentee voting in your state

  • Voter ID requirements in your state

Similarly, the survey asked youth non-voters if any of the following would make them more likely to vote in the next presidential election: the adoption of same-day voter registration, the expansion of early in-person voting, and no-excuse absentee voting, or changes in voter ID requirements.

The results from the survey revealed that a majority of youth polled utilized early in-person voting during the 2020 presidential election. Correspondingly, the accessibility of early in-person voting consistently had an ‘extremely positive’ impact on an individual’s decision to vote in the 2020 election. Among youth non-voters, at least 50% of respondents indicated that they would be more likely to vote if their state enacted legislation adopting same-day voter registration or expanded the availability of in-person early voting.

Overall, there was a positive relationship between states with early voting provisions and youth turnout. However, there was no clear relationship between a state’s general level of convenience or restrictive voting laws and youth voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election.

Christina’s thesis calls for further research around specific policies that correlate with increased youth voter turnout, such as early in-person voting. Her research also indicates a need for studies on the long-term impacts of recently adopted state election laws on youth voter turnout. Establishing the effects of these state election laws on voter turnout, specifically among youth populations who are traditionally less likely to vote, will help state legislatures ensure that every citizen has full and equal access to the ballot.


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