People who have their tickets but do not use them: "Motor voter, " registration, and turnout revisited

Robert D. Brown, Justin Wedeking

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We reexamine the effects of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) legislation on aggregate participation rates in the states. We approach NVRA as working directly on registration, and only indirectly on turnout, and we argue that the most appropriate way to evaluate NVRA is to examine how it translates increased registration into turnout. Using Federal Election Commission/ Electoral Assistance Commission and census data, we find that an unanticipated impact of NVRA has been to alter the long-standing empirical relationship between registration and turnout. Further analyses suggest this failure to transmit registration into turnout may, ironically, be the result of another success of NVRA - an increase in the relative equality of registrants. By encouraging lower income citizens to register, NVRA has helped create a pool of registered citizens less likely to vote. These findings have implications for discussions of NVRA and for the participation literature that views registration as a primary catalyst for turnout.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-504
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican Politics Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Election reform
  • Motor voter
  • NVRA
  • Political participation
  • Turnout
  • Voting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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