Giving Compass' Take:

• The 2008 recession impacted voter turnout for subsequent elections, and now researchers are wondering if COVID-19, layoffs, and large numbers of unemployment with significantly disrupt voter turnout in 2020. 

• How can donors help increase civic participation? 

• Learn more about increasing voter turnout in local elections. 

The same phenomenon could happen this November as the United States experiences historic levels of unemployment, says study author Ben McCartney, an assistant professor of finance at Purdue University.

With so much financial distress on their plate, voting could be the last thing on their minds.

“My concern going forward is that this story is going to repeat itself,” McCartney says.

He found that a 10% decline in local home prices decreased the participation rate of an average mortgaged homeowner by 1.6%, amounting to 800,000 potential votes over the course of the 2010 and 2012 national elections.

The effect was less intense for renters and particularly severe for homeowners with little to no equity in their homes. He estimated that financial distress from the economic downturn was to blame. McCartney used North Carolina voter files, housing data, and Zillow home values for his analysis.

“It’s a case where the opportunity costs now of voting are very high for some people,” he says. “It’s relatively easy for people to say, ‘I’m not going to worry about it this cycle. How do I figure out if I’m registered to vote? Where’s my polling place? Who is running for the various offices?

Four of 10 states that held their primary elections on June 2 saw a decline in voter turnout compared with 2016, according to analytics website The expansion of mail-in voting could have contributed to higher turnout in the six other states, according to the report.

Potential voters could be more concerned about recovering from closures, furloughs, and layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, McCartney says.

Read the full article about voter turnout 2020 by Joseph Paul at Futurity.