Dr. George Ehrhardt, "a registered Republican and advisor to the Appalachian State College Republicans," poo-poos the voter suppression charges lodged against Eggers and Aceto by purporting to massage voting statistics. Hmmm. I'll leave the evaluation of those numbers to others, but I would like to react to Dr. Ehrhardt's overall presentation and to the "scholarship" underpinning it.
What is his major point? That Early Voting is actually a bad thing and that the Watauga County Board of Elections under Eggers&Aceto were really just doing us all a favor to close down Early Voting on the ASU campus and to move the precinct polling place for an urban precinct five miles out into the countryside.
He also alleges, through the use of published scholarship that is footnoted in his paper, that there may be one or two political scientists who actually agree with him (though, after reading the sources he footnotes, not so much).
Dr. Ehrhardt's Scholarly Scaffolding
1. The trouble starts with Dr. Ehrhardt's footnote # 4. Here it is in context:
Ehrhardt writes: "These results match that of previous research on early voting. In fact, the most recent study on the subject finds that to the contrary, early voting itself actually suppresses vote turnout.4"
That statement is, at best, an exaggeration of what the cited source actually claims:
Ehrhardt's source: “The results show that election day registration has a consistently positive effect on turnout while the most popular reform – early voting – is actually associated with lower turnout when it is implemented by itself. We propose that early voting has created negative unanticipated consequences by reducing the civic significance of elections for individuals and altering the incentives for political campaigns to invest in mobilization.”
Notice that italicized phrase. This is an article about get-out-the-vote efforts. When campaigns focus just on early voting and not other forms of “mobilization,” then, yes, early voting alone is not that successful. But that's a fur piece from "early voting itself actually suppresses vote turnout." Bullshit.
2. Footnote # 5: Dr. Ehrhardt suggests that this source supports his contention that early voting actually depresses turnout, but that is not at all the clear-cut case when you actually read the source:
Ehrhardt's source: “While one prominent study suggests that voting by mail is associated with a 10% increase in turnout, other studies find smaller—but still statistically significant—increases in turnout associated with other convenience voting methods.” Emphasis added
“Convenience voting” in this context refers to early voting. More bullshit.
3. Footnote # 7: Dr. Ehrhardt uses this source to claim that there is little to no effect on voter turnout caused by moving polling places around. Here’s what the source actually says about moving polling places which inconvenience voters by costing them more for travel:
“Could changing the locations of polling places affect the outcome of an election by increasing the costs of voting for some and decreasing them for others? The consolidation of voting precincts in Los Angeles County during California's 2003 gubernatorial recall election provides a natural experiment for studying how changing polling places influences voter turnout. Overall turnout decreased by a substantial 1.85 percentage points .... the changing of polling places still had a small partisan effect because those registered as Democrats were more sensitive to changes in costs than those registered as Republicans. The effects were small enough to allay worries about significant electoral consequences in this instance (e.g., the partisan effect might be decisive in only about one in two hundred contested House elections), but large enough to make it possible for someone to affect outcomes by more extensive manipulation of polling place locations.”
In my estimation, Dr. Ehrhardt is guilty of academic malfeasance in the pursuit of partisan advantage, and I cannot agree that the Watauga County Board of Elections has actually doing us all a favor, nor was that their intent back on August 12, 2013.