NBER

Chad D. Cotti, Bryan Engelhardt, Joshua Foster, Erik T. Nesson, Paul S. Niekamp

Bibliographic Information

NBER Working Paper No. 27187
Issued in May 2020
NBER Program(s):HE, PE

Available Formats

Abstract

On April 7, 2020, Wisconsin held a major election for state positions and presidential preferences for both major parties. News reports showed pictures of long lines of voters due to fewer polling locations and suggested that the election may further the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A contact-tracing analysis by the Wisconsin Department of Health identified 71 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to in-person voting, but no research has conducted a broader analysis of the extent to which in-person voting increased the number of COVID-19 cases. We use county level data on voting and COVID-19 tests to connect the election to the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We find a statistically and economically significant association between in-person voting and the spread of COVID-19 two to three weeks after the election. Our results offer estimates of the potential increased costs of in-person voting during a pandemic.

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