Strengthening Democracy with Dollars? How Funding Changes Administrators' Behavior & Increases Voter Turnout


Friday, September 30, 2022, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


S050 (Concourse level), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge St.

Join Christian Grose, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Southern California for a talk on “Strengthening Democracy with Dollars? Increasing Funding for Elections Changes Administrators' Behavior and Increases Voter Turnout.” This discussion is part of the American Politics Speaker Series sponsored by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the Center for American Political Studies.

This will be an in-person event open to Harvard ID holders only. Lunch will be served.

Register here


Does increasing spending on elections to open more polling places lead to higher voter turnout? Public officials who administer elections make decisions about the operation of elections, and these decisions are directly influenced by budgets available. However, scholars of elections have rarely examined the role of budgets on elite choices regarding making it easier (or harder) to vote. I theorize that administrative budgets provide for the ability for government officials to engage in discretionary activities to open more polling places, and this has a downstream effect of increasing turnout. A novel field experiment was conducted during the 2020 US general election in which local election officials were randomly encouraged to apply for nonpartisan philanthropic funding to open polling places; and a control group of local election officials were not. Results of the field experiment show that the randomized encouragement led to a 3.9%-point increase in local officials applying for and receiving the funding compared to control group officials. In a 2SLS causal model and in correlational analyses, there is evidence that exogenous increases to election budgets and exogenous increases in polling locations led to higher voter participation. The conclusions are that (1) some public officials can be encouraged to increase voter access via budgetary or financial nudges; and (2) increasing budgets on elections to open more polling locations increases voter participation. 

About the Series    

The American Politics Speaker Series (APSS) aims to bring together scholars who are doing research on these and other important questions. Hosted jointly with the Center for American Political Studies and chaired by Professors Maya Sen, Benjamin Schneer, and Justin de Benedictis-Kessner, each session will highlight a scholar whose research is at the forefront of the study of American politics. 

Event Details 

Due to space restrictions, registration is required - please click the link above to register. The Ash Center follows all Harvard University COVID-19 protocols. Masks are no longer required at Harvard Kennedy School events, but anyone who wishes to wear a mask should feel free to do so.

The Ash Center encourages individuals with disabilities to participate in its events. Should you wish to enquire about an accommodation, please contact our events team at prior to the event. 

Additional questions? Email the Ash Center events team at