Peer Reviewed Publications

The Downstream Consequences of Long Waits: How Lines at the Precinct Depress Future Turnout

Electoral Studies. Forthcoming.
[Conference poster presention]
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Media coverage

Researchers have increasingly paid attention to the impact that the administrative component of elections has on voter behavior. Existing research has focused almost exclusively on the effect that legal changes--such as voter identification laws--have on turnout. This paper extends our understanding of the electoral process by exploring how one aspect of the precinct experience--standing in line to vote--can shape the turnout behavior of voters in subsequent elections. I demonstrate that for every additional hour a voter waits in line to vote, their probability of voting in the subsequent election drops by 1 percentage point. To arrive at these estimates, I analyze vote history files using a combination of exact matching and placebo tests to test the identification assumptions. I then leverage an unusual institutional arrangement in the City of Boston and longitudinal data from Florida to show that the result also holds at the precinct level. The findings in this paper have important policy implications for administrative changes that may impact line length, such as voter identification requirements and precinct consolidation. They also suggest that racial asymmetries in precinct wait times contribute to the gap in turnout rates between white and non-white voters.
  • New York Times - "Why Long Voting Lines Could Have Long-Term Consequences"
  • Vox - "Minority voters are 6 times as likely as white voters to wait more than an hour to vote"
  • The Independent - "Long lines at US polling stations called 'undemocratic and 'inaccessible' as people wait hours to vote'"
  • The Undefeated - "Political Realities that got Donald Trump elected should shock us into action"
  • Salon - "The real reason black voters didn't turn out for Hillary Clinton--and how to fix it"

Protecting the Perilous Path of Election Returns: From the Precinct to the News

Ohio State Technology Law Journal. Summer 2020. With Charles Stewart.
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We consider the vulnerabilities attending the reporting of election results to the public that arise because of the use of technology. Attacks on election reporting capabilities in Knox County, Tennessee in 2018 and Ukraine in 2014 illustrate many aspects of the challenges facing election officials as they try to protect the reporting of election results from malicious attacks. In considering the vulnerabilities that face American systems generally, we start by sketching out a generic description of the election-reporting system in the United States. This sketch highlights both the formal and informal flow of information through the reporting system. The information nodes themselves are vulnerable to attack, but more importantly, information flows at uneven rates, which provides raw material for those bent on causing chaos and undermining confidence in the vote counting. We conclude by considering what might be done to protect the election-return-reporting system against vulnerabilities. We frame that discussion in terms of NIST’s cybersecurity framework of "identification, protection, detection, response, and recovery." Although there are technological fixes that can help to undergird resilience in this system, attention must be paid to the education of the public and the media about the contingent nature of the election results that are reported in the days immediately following Election Day.

Absention, Protest, and Residual Votes in the 2016 Election

Social Science Quarterly. March 2020. With Michael Alvarez, Charles Stewart, and Cameron Wimpy.
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We analyze the significant increase in the residual vote rate in the 2016 presidential election. The residual vote rate, which is the percentage of ballots cast in a presidential election that contain no vote for president, rose nationwide from 0.99% to 1.41% between 2012 and 2016. The primary explanation for this rise is an increase in abstentions, which we argue results primarily from disaffected Republicans more than from alienated Democrats. In addition, other factors related to election administration and electoral competition also explain variation in the residual vote rates across states, particularly the use of mail/absentee ballots and the lack of competition at the top of the ticket in non-battleground states. However, we note that the rise in the residual vote rate was not due to changes in voting technologies. Our research has implications for the use of the residual vote as a metric for studying election administration and voting technologies.

The Race Gap in Precinct Wait Times: Why Minority Precincts are Underserved by Local Election Officials

Political Science Quarterly. Fall 2017.
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In this paper I demonstrate that voting precincts in mostly minority neighborhoods have an average wait time that is twice as long as the wait in a mostly white neighborhood. Minority voters are also six times more likely than whites to wait longer than 60 minutes to vote. I show that most of this racial gap can be explained by how local election officials handle white and non-white precincts differently. The biggest of these differences is that, within an election administration jurisdiction (either county or town), white precincts tend to receive more resources--like voting machines and poll workers--per voter than minority ones. White precincts tend to have 20 fewer voters per voting machine and 90 fewer voters per poll worker than minority precincts. The findings of this paper suggest way forward for improving the voting experience for the 3.5 million voters who waited more than an hour in 2012.

Comment on "Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science"

Science. March 2016. With Daniel Gilbert, Gary King, and Tim Wilson.
[Website with additional info]     [Replication data]
[Interview about the project]     [Supplemental appendix]
Media coverage
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A paper from the Open Science Collaboration attempting to replicate 100 published studies suggests that the reproducibility of psychology science is surprisingly low. We show that this article contains three statistical errors and provides no support for such a conclusion. Indeed, the data are consistent with the opposite conclusion, namely, that the reproducibility of psychological science is quite high.
  • Washington Post - "Errors riddled 2015 study showing replication crisis in psychology research, scientists say"
  • New York Times - "New critique sees flaws in landmark analysis of psychological studies"
  • Wired - "Psychology is in crisis over whether it's in crisis"
  • Slate - "Psychologists call out the study that called out the field of psychology"
  • Nature - "Psychology's reproducibility problem is exaggerated - say psychologists"
  • FiveThirtyEight - "Failure is moving science forward"
  • Chronicle of Higher Education - "Can science's reproducibility crisis be reproduced?"
  • The NeuroEconomist - "Is the replication crisis in psychology real?"
  • Science News - "Psychology's replication crisis sparks new debate"
  • The Verge - "Scientists are fighting about whether a major psychology study is totally wrong"
  • British Psychological Society - "Replication: Is the glass half full, half empty, or irrelevant?"

Hosting the Olympic Games: An Overstated Advantage in Sports History

The International Journal of the History of Sport. March 2016. With Danyel Reiche.
[Replication data]
Media coverage
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Previous research on the home advantage in the history of the Olympic Games has found initial evidence that host nations have won more medals than non-hosts. In this paper we argue that these findings are a myth of sports history, providing poor estimates of the home advantage in the Olympics. We argue that selection bias accounts for the findings in previous work, which uses an empirical strategy of comparing host nations to all non-hosts and to historical performances of host countries with much smaller delegations. When we correct for this bias the evidence in favor of a hosting advantage disappears. Additionally, we argue that the existing literature has largely neglected the rules about athlete qualification for host countries. To the extent that a small home advantage does exist, it is almost entirely driven by increased participation rates.
  • Live Mint - "Olympic Games: The Conundrum of Playing Host"

How the West will be Won: Using Monte Carlo Simulation to Estimate the Effects of NHL Realignment

Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. September 2014. Vol. 10, Issue 3. pp 345-355.
[Conference poster presention]
Media coverage
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The NHL has realigned its conferences and divisions, and starting with the 2013-2014 season the Eastern Conference features 16 teams and the Western Conference features 14. Yet because there are 8 playoff spots available in both conferences, teams in the West have a 57% probability of making the playoffs, compared to just 50% for teams in the East. As a result we should expect that, on average, the last team to make the playoffs in the West will have a worse record than the last playoff team in the East. We call the difference in points earned by the 8th seed in each conference the “conference gap.” The purpose of this paper is to estimate the expected size of the conference gap under the new alignment. Using tens of thousands of simulated seasons, we demonstrate that the conference gap will be, on average, 2.74 points, meaning that Eastern Conference teams hoping to make the playoffs will have to win 1 to 2 games more than Western Conference playoff-hopefuls. We also show the 9th place team in the Eastern Conference has a better record than the 8th place Western team twice as often as the 9th best Western team has a better record than the East’s 8th best. Our findings inform questions about competitive balance and equity in the NHL.
  • Boston Globe - "New conferences offer West slight advantage"

Strategic Politicians, Partisan Roll Calls, and the Tea Party

Electoral Studies. March 2013. With Jamie Carson.
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The 2010 midterm elections were politically and historically significant in several respects. This article offers a concise narrative of the congressional elections beginning with a discussion of the factors influencing the outcome of the historic election. We briefly consider established research on congressional elections and analyze the degree to which these theories apply to the specific circumstances in 2010. Throughout the article, we compare the 2010 midterms to two other recent elections, 2006 and 2008. We also examine several idiosyncratic aspects of the 2010 elections, relative to the historic midterm elections of 1994 and 2006, as well as the effects of the stimulus and healthcare reform bills and the Tea Party movement. We find strong effects for member votes on the individual roll calls, but little evidence of Tea Party influence on electoral outcomes.

Working papers

Trumped by Trump? Public Support for Vote By Mail Voting in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

With Josh Clinton, John Lapinski, and Sarah Lentz.
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How much is support for vote by mail (VBM) impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, partisanship, and recent efforts by partisan elites to politicize discussions about expanding the use of VBM in November 2020? Using surveys of registered voters conducted in April and May 2020 we characterize how changing concerns about COVID 19 and increased partisan messaging affects public support for VBM. We show that the bipartisan support for VBM in April 2020 falls sharply after just six weeks because: Republicans became less worried about catching COVID-19, and unconcerned Republicans also became more opposed to VBM. The pandemic originally increased public support for expanding VBM to help combat the spread of COVID-19 - creating a relative unique opportunity to examine the public’s willingness to reconsider how elections are administered - but decreasing COVID-19 concerns among Republicans and increased opposition among unconcerned Republicans (perhaps due to increased partisan messaging) has combined to increase partisan divisions in otherwise historically high levels of public support for VBM.

Moved out, Moved On: Assessing the Effectiveness of Voter Registration List Maintenance

With Charles Stewart.
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The topic of the accuracy of voter registration lists has been at the center of debates over improving election administration in the United States for over a decade. For those concerned about the convenient access of voters to the polls, inaccurate lists pose an unnecessary barrier to voting, giving rise to the possibility that a registered voter may not be allowed to cast a ballot, or at the very least, be required to cast a provisional ballot that will have a less-than-certain chance of being counted. For those concerned about voter fraud, inaccurate lists provide the opportunity for undetected voter fraud. Concern about list accuracy has led academics and advocates alike to scrutinize these lists for the purpose of ferreting out 'deadwood'--obsolete records, usually due to a person moving or dying. The goal of this paper is to develop a model of voter registration list size that takes into account the various factors that determine not only the number of 'actual' registered voters, but also accounts for a baseline of expected deadwood. The model draws its inspiration from population ecology models, and thus is termed ''a population model of registration and deadwood.''

Assessing the Offensive Productivity of NHL Players Using In-Game Win Probabilities

[Conference poster presention]     [Research presentation video]
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Hockey journalists and statisticians currently lack many of the empirical tools available in other sports. In this paper I introduce a win probability metric for the NHL and use it to develop a new statistic, Added Goal Value, which evaluates player offensive productivity. The metric is the first of its kind to incorporate powerplay information and is the only NHL in-game win probability metric currently available. I show how win probabilities can enhance the narrative around an individual game and can also be used to evaluate playoff series win probabilities. I then introduce Added Goal Value which improves upon traditional offensive player statistics by accounting for game context. A player's AGV has a strong positive correlation between seasons, making it a useful statistic for predicting future offensive productivity. By accounting for the context in which goals are scored, AGV also allows for comparisons to be made between players who have identical goalscoring rates. The work in this paper provides several advances in hockey analytics and also provides a framework for unifying current and future work on Corsi, Fenwick, and other NHL analytics.

Other Publications

Uncertainty over a blue wave: NBC News finds Democratic and GOP voter registrations at same level as past election cycles

NBC News. Oct. 16, 2018. With John Lapinski, Stephanie Perry, and Rezwana Uddin.

The 2014 Elections that Ended in a Tie

FiveThirtyEight. December 5, 2014.

Republican Advantages in Candidate Recruitment in 2010 have Led to an Increasingly Polarized House of Representatives

London School of Economics blog on American Politics and Policy. Sept. 17, 2013. With Jamie Carson.

Sports analytics publications