Want to raise turnout? Put on a party at the polling station

A dog on the floor. CC0 image.

Australia has a lovely tradition of putting on mini-summer fairs at polling stations, as I discussed with an Australian political expert for Never Mind The Bar Charts. They make elections much more of a fun, celebratory event and the popularity of sausage stands at them has even given us the phrase ‘democracy sausage’.

With mandatory voting in Australia, the impact on turnout is not a factor. Elsewhere, however, the academic research shows that making voting locations more fun improves turnout:

During the final days of the 2016 general election, Civic Nation coordinated a series of non-partisan election festivals designed to encourage voter turnout in targeted precincts across the country. Previous experimental research (Addonizio, Green, and Glaser 2007) indicates that festivals held at polling sites significantly increase voter turnout. Prior research, however, focused solely on low-salience elections, such as municipal or primary elections. The study reported here is the first to assess the effectiveness of festivals held in the context of a high-salience election. Festivals appear to increase turnout substantially and cost-effectively, but further research in high-salience elections is needed to pin down these effects with more statistical precision…

Festivals rank among the most cost-effective get-out-the-vote techniques. The 2016 Civic Nation festivals cost … $34 per [additional] vote .. This cost-per-vote assessment is also quite competitive with other voter mobilization tactics, such as phone calls or direct mail.

Example activities at different locations included:

Lawn games and a photo booth were the main attractions. Recorded music was played and there was a bike valet for people who rode their bikes to the event.


There was a DJ playing music during the event, as well as puppies dressed up in red, white and blue in wagons for attendees to play with.

I look forward to the next ALDC training session on responsible use of puppies on polling day.


Hat-tip: David Shor.

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One response to “Want to raise turnout? Put on a party at the polling station”

  1. there are plenty of ideas for increasing turnout in UK elections, but one theme follows every attempt to introduce any change, and that is that Tories do not want to see any increased turnout because a lower turnout usually benefits them

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