First Read

Longer ballots portend less turnout, UF study finds

The more names on the ballot, the less likely voters were to fill out their ballot at all.

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With the Republican presidential primary field the most crowded it has been in recent memory, one might think that more people should be expected to participate in primary elections because more candidates are on the ballot. But a University of Florida study, looking at data outside the country, disagrees.

Andrew Janusz, an assistant professor in the school’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and his co-authors looked at 20 years of voting data from Brazil that included 60,000 total elections. They found that the more names on the ballot, the less likely voters were to fill out their ballot at all, even when forced to go to the polls by Brazil’s laws.

“Choosing between many alternatives is tiring. We expected that voters would be less likely to participate when they are asked to make complex decisions. The data we analyzed in the experiment shows that as the number of candidates increases voter participation declines,” Janusz said in a press release from UF.

Now consider the current Republican primary field here, which currently has 13 candidates – only three away from the record of 16 set by the Democratic field in 1972. Moreover, Republican voters largely are unfamiliar with many of the hopefuls, besides the big names of Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Ron DeSantis. Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, polling fourth and fifth in national GOP polls, are struggling with name recognition among voters. 

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