Authors: Eric Cova, Michelle DiMartino, Lisa McMonagle, James Salazar


Political scientists have worked on a sizable body of research to examine the factors that influence voter turnout. There has been significant scholarship specifically focusing on the factor of electoral closeness – how close a specific race is whether it be a local, state, or national race. This is inevitably tied into competitiveness, or the makeup of the political parties within a district. Research has shown that closeness and competitiveness are positively correlated with voter turnout. However, as much of this research measures voting at the district level, it does not give a more nuanced look at this relationship. By using precinct level voter data and examining precincts that switched districts after the 2010 redistricting cycle, we are able to dive deeply into the relationship between competitiveness and voter turnout – something that previous research has not done. This data is less susceptible to political manipulation as this is usually done on a larger scale than the precinct level. We find that in our basic model, there is a positive relationship between competitiveness and voter turnout – with turnout increasing as precincts switch into more competitive districts and decreasing as precincts switch into less competitive districts. In our full model, we see that as precincts switch to less competitive districts, voter turnout decreases, regardless of the majority party within the district. This research gives insight into how a district’s competitiveness influences voter turnout, and how redistricting can be used as a tool to examine the effect not only of competitiveness, but the effects that redistricting itself can have on voter turnout.

Read the full research paper here.

Author(s) updated the publication on March 15, 2021 (Originally published on May 20, 2020).