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Defending the Electoral College and the Constitution since 2009

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The best way to increase voter turnout

The highest level of voter participation is almost always in November. That makes sense. Americans are accustomed to voting in early November, on a Tuesday. That date stays the same no matter where you are in the country. There are also a lot of different elections on that one November ballot, generating significant attention and creating a lot of reasons to get out and vote.

On the other hand, the lowest levels of voter participation are in elections that happen at odd times. This is often the case for school board elections, and sometimes for other local elected offices. These are the opposite of November elections: they’re unusual, differ from place to place, and may receive little to no media or public attention.

According to academic research published in the American Political Science Review:

“one simple reform—shifting the timing of local elections so they are held on the same day as national contests—can substantially increase participation. Considerable research shows that on-cycle November elections generally double local voter turnout compared to stand-alone local contests. ... Our results suggest that on-cycle elections can improve local democracy.”

State legislatures write the election laws for their state, and can ensure that local elections are held at times when voters are likely to participate. This is the easiest, most proven way to increase voter participation in American elections.