Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.


L. Sandy Maisel

Second Advisor

Dan Shea


Due to the United States’ shockingly low turnout in comparison to other Western democracies, many states around the country have enacted laws to increase the number of people who participate in presidential elections. Scholars have found mixed results when testing the effects of specific electoral reforms in individual states, but few have looked at comprehensive models to test the overall effects of these reforms on turnout. This thesis examines the ways in which electoral reforms across all fifty states have led to increases or decreases of turnout in presidential elections. It utilizes a comprehensive longitudinal model accounting for electoral reform and socio-economic, geographical, and political variables to explain why turnout rates are at the levels they are. The results indicate that, although there are small effects, electoral laws overall do little to influence turnout and alternative reforms should be investigated in attempts to influence turnout.


turnout, presidential elections, electoral reform