New Initiatives in Election Science

Funding systematic research on the conduct of elections in the United States.
People are at work in the Missouri Pacific Railroad office in 1929. One man sits by a large adding machine.
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The MIT Election Data and Science Lab established the New Initiatives in Election Science Grants in 2017 to encourage new approaches to the scientific study of elections and election reform. Through 2019, these grants funded systematic research on the conduct of elections in the United States by scholars around the country.

The New Initiatives program has closed, but you can find information about past grant projects below, including links to published articles from the research and information for accessing the data as it becomes available.

The program was made possible through a generous grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

2019 Grants

In 2019, we funded 11 new projects, giving a total amount of just under $100,000 for this round of New Initiatives Grants. Recipients during this year came from 15 institutions around the U.S.; in all, 20 scholars received funding as individuals or research teams.

Read more about the 2019 grants


Michael Byrne and Philip Kortum

Voter detection of anomalies on bmd ballots


Jesse T. Clark

The Maine Event? The gap between expectations and reality in election reform


Laurel Eckhouse, Allison Harris, Hannah Walker, and Ariel White

Finding families affected by felon disfranchisement


Christian R. Grose and Nathan K. Micatka

Do post-election audits increase confidence in elections?


Martha Kropf, Jason Windett, and Samira Shaikh

Using data science to create election science


Todd Makse

Early voting and the implications of non-simultaneity for political discussion


Christopher Mann and Kathleen Searles

Media myths and public perception of polling place wait times


Ellen Seljan and Paul Gronke

Happy birthday: you get to vote!


Bernard Tamas

Does malapportionment and voter suppression cause disproportionality and inflate electoral bias? A district-level analysis of US house elections (1870-2018)




Chris Warshaw

A new database of local legislative and executive elections


Logan Woods

How do voters react to problems when casting their ballot?



2018 Grants

We funded 8 proposals in 2018 under our New Initiatives Program; the total amount granted was just under $100,000. Grantees totaled 15 scholars from 9 institutions, many of whom are junior faculty members or Ph.D. students.

Read more about the 2018 grants


Lisa Bryant

Vote Center Implementation in California: Analysis of a Beta Test in the 2018 Primary and General Elections


Bridgett King

Administrative Decision Making & Barriers to Political Participation


Shiro Kuriwaki

Ballot Image Logs: Data Collection and Standardization


Thessalia Merivaki, Dallas Breen, and Ioannis Ziogas

Voter List Maintenance Within a Hybrid Structure of Data Management: The Case of Mississippi


Zachary Mohr, Martha Kropf, Mary Jo Shepherd, and JoEllen Pope

Estimating Election Administration Spending in the 50 States


Lauren Prather and Sarah Bush

Does Foreign Influence Undermine Political Trust?


James Szewczyk

Does Vote-By-Mail Cause Voters to Gather More Information About Politics?


Adriano Udani and David Kimball

Correcting Perceptions of Voter Fraud in U.S. Elections



2017 Grants

In 2017, we funded 14 proposals as part of our New Initiatives Grants in Election Science Program. The total amount granted was just over $160,000. Grantees totaled 30 scholars from 21 institutions. Of the 14 proposals funded, 12 went to teams that were led by junior faculty members or Ph.D. students.


Brian Amos and Michael McDonald

Fabricating Precinct Boundaries


Joseph Anthony and David Kimball

A Study of Photo ID Implementation in Missouri Jurisdictions


Kyle Endres and Costas Panagopoulos

Field Experiment in the 2017 Virginia Election


Our study was designed to assess the effects of providing informational reminders to registered voters in the November 2017 general election in Virginia on turnout and views of the election.


Summary Report


Brian J. Gaines

Primary Election Laws, State by State


My goal was to create a data set describing the election rules governing primary elections in the American states, with an emphasis on enfranchisement (who is permitted to take part in the election), and not the election results. Briefly, we wished to compile a definitive coding of which states employ “open”, “closed”, etc. primaries, and when these occurred.


Summary Report



Nadine Gibson

Maintaining the Machinery of Democracy: Assessing the Quality of Voting Equipment in the 21st Century


Brian Hamel, Jan Leighley, and Robert Stein

Who Votes When—and Why?


William McGuire, Benjamin Gonzalez O'Brien, Katherine Baird, Benjamin Corbett, and Loren Collingwood

Evaluating the Impact of Drop Boxes and Get-Out-The-Vote Advertising on Voter Turnout in Pierce County, WA


Voter turnout in the United States lags behind most other developed democracies. This project examines the impact the installation of new ballot drop boxes had on voter turnout in Pierce County, the second largest county in Washington State. To identify the causal effects of these boxes on the decision to vote, we exploit the randomized placement of five new ballot drop boxes in Pierce prior to the 2017 general election.


Summary Report



Thessalia Merivaki and Joseph "Dallas" Breen

Investigating Voter List Maintenance Practices at the Local Level: The Case of Mississippi


Michael Miller and Bernard Fraga

Who Does Voter ID Legislation Keep From Voting? Evidence from Texas


Our plan called for the collection and digitization of all Reasonable Impediment Declarations (RIDs) filed by Texas voters in the 2016 general election. We then planned to identify the voters who filed these RIDs in the voter file, and merge their information with certain attributes in the Catalist database. The end goal of our work was to produce a dataset that could be shared with other election scholars studying this topic.


Summary Report


Zachary Mohr, Martha Kropf, Mary Jo McGowan Shepherd, JoEllen Pope, and Madison Esterle

How Much Are We Spending on Election Administration?


As elections administration and public budget researchers, we were curious if we could find data on the cost of elections and wanted to know if the costs had changed since 2000.  We wanted to get an updated answer to the question: how much does it cost to conduct elections in the United States?


Summary Report



Brandon Rottinghaus and Jeronimo Cortina

The Impact of Vote Centers on Turnover: The Case of Texas


Mara Suttmann-Lea

The Deserving Voter: Poll Worker Decision Making at the American Ballot Box


Adriano Udani and David Kimball

What Fraud Looks Like: A Conjoint Analysis to Examine Perceptions of Voter Fraud


Abby Wood, Christopher Elmendorf & Douglas Spencer

Vouchers, Information and Ideology