Books

Ritter, Michael J., and Caroline Tolbert. 2021. Accessible Elections: How State Governments Can Help Americans Vote. Oxford University Press.

Recent years have witnessed widespread changes in state voting and registration laws. These include same day registration, automatic voter registration, early voting, mail voting, and no-excuse absentee voting where people mail in their ballots. Most research on these voting reforms has downplayed their effects, showing that they generally benefit educated, older, and more affluent people. This book shows the positive effects that these reforms have on overall voter turnout, and among voters of disadvantaged groups. Specifically, it emphasizes the ways that state governments are making it easier to participate in elections in an effort to strengthen democratic government.

In Accessible Elections, Michael Ritter and Caroline J. Tolbert explore the wide variation from state to state in convenience voting methods and provide new empirical analysis of the beneficial effects of these policies, not only in boosting participation rates overall, but in increasing voter turnout for disadvantaged groups. The authors measure both convenience methods and implementation of the laws, and explore how elections are conducted across the fifty states, where average turnout has varied more than 25 percentage points over the past four decades. The authors also draw on national voter files with millions of cases and vote histories of the same individuals over time in order to show the real effects of election reform and to make a case for how state governments can modernize their electoral practices, increase voter turnout, and make the experience of voting more accessible and equitable. Ritter and Tolbert assert that in the wake of covid-19 and efforts to maintain social distancing, early voting and absentee/mail voting are of particular importance to avoid election-day crowds and ensure equitable elections in states with large populations. With important implications for the 2020 general election and beyond, Accessible Elections underscores how state governments can modernize their electoral procedures to increase voter turnout, address inequalities, and influence campaign and party mobilization strategies.

Publications (peer reviewed)

M. Ritter, with C. Clayton. Forthcoming. “Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee and the Future of Voting Rights.” In SCOTUS 2021: Major Decisions and Developments of the U.S. Supreme Court. Ed. Morgan Marietta. Palgrave Macmillan
 
M. Ritter, with J. Coll, and C. Tolbert. Forthcoming. “Campaigns, Elections and
Voting Access.” In Politics in the American States. Eds. Thad Kousser et al. 13th ed. Sage.
“Economic Inequality and Campaign Participation,” with Frederick Solt. 2019. Social Science Quarterly 100(3): 678-688.

Abstract: How does economic inequality shape participation in political campaigns? Several studies have found that higher levels of inequality make people of all incomes less likely to participate in politics, consistent with relative power theory, the view that greater inequality enables wealthier citizens to more fully reshape the political landscape to their own advantage. These works, however, addressed relatively undemanding forms of participation like voting. Campaign activities demand more of participants’ time and money and so might better conform to the predictions of resource theory, which focuses narrowly on the ramifications of inequality for individuals’ resources. We combine individual-level data on donations, meeting attendance, and volunteer work for political campaigns with measures of state-level income inequality to construct a series of multilevel models. The analyses reveal that, where inequality is higher, campaign participation is lower among individuals of all incomes, providing additional support for the relative power theory.

“Emotion Management: Unexpected Research Opportunities,” with Alison Bianchi, Alexander Ruch, and Ji Hye Kim.  2016. Sociology Compass 10(2): 172-183.

Abstract: During the process of emotion management, individuals perceive that they are feeling emotions that differ from what is expected within the situation. Consequently, they use cognitive, physical, and/or other means either to display more appropriate emotions or to change their emotions on a deeper level to be consistent with what is customarily expressed. Beginning with the first examinations of emotion management in 1979 by the pioneer Arlie Hochschild, emotion scholars have produced over 6,000 studies of this phenomenon. We join this vibrant research program by proposing new avenues of research using an interdisciplinary strategy. First, we explore possibilities for emotion management research within its “home base” of sociology; then, we branch out to the areas of morality and political science. In so doing, we craft new and unexpected pathways for advancements in theory, theory adjudication, and methodology, for the future of emotion management research.

Works in Progress

“Accounting for Missing Income in Voting Research.” (journal article)
     
“How Zoning Laws Impact Poverty in American Cities.” (journal article)
 
Nationalizing Accessible Elections: What Happens when the Mailbox becomes the Ballot Box and the Backlash to Expanding Voting Access? (follow-up book project to Accessible Elections)
 
“Obstacles to Absentee and Mail Voting in the 2012 to 2018 U.S. Midterm and Presidential Elections.” (journal article)
 
The Landscape of American Politics. (textbook project)
 
“Using Voter File and County Data to Assess the Impact of Oregon’s Automatic Voter Registration  
 Law in the 2016, 2018, and 2020 Elections.” (journal article)

           Michael Ritter