Polling places and their influence on voters’ decision

The method by which a polling location can influence someone’s decision is known as priming… This effect happens when external stimuli “manipulate” internal thoughts, feelings or behaviors. After becoming activated by stimuli, priming triggers these associations in our memory.

Most states prohibit campaigning within 100 feet of a polling place, and others ban wearing campaign buttons or t-shirts while voting. While these laws were passed to prevent voter intimidation, subtle exposure to campaign paraphernalia could result in priming.

But even if banning campaigning near polling sites were strictly enforced, research confirms that locations themselves can serve as contextual primes that influence specific attitudes and behaviors.

For example, simply being in a church can change our attitudes. A 2012 study found that religious locations prime significantly higher conservative attitudes—and negative attitudes toward gay men and lesbians—than nonreligious locations.

The use of schools as polling places has also been called into question, and social scientists have examined whether schools can unfairly bias vote choice on education-related ballot measures.

Colorado, Oregon and Washington have taken legislative action to remodel their voting process, making it easier (and fairer) to vote. They’ve done this by eliminating the traditional polling location, and going to an all-mail voting system.

In these states, ballots are mailed to registered voters at least two weeks prior to Election Day. Voters then decide, at their convenience, to either mail their ballot back or drop it off at a designated location.

Full article on the New Republic.

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