Tax Time Can Help Boost Voter Registration, New Research Finds

Tax time may be an especially effective opportunity to increase voter registration among low-income Americans, according to new research from the Brookings Institution.

Vanessa Williamson, Senior Fellow at Brookings, conducted the Filer Voter Experiment during the 2018 tax filing season to determine the effectiveness of conducting voter registration drives at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in Cleveland, Ohio and Dallas, Texas. While filling out their tax information, taxpayers were also given the opportunity to register to vote. The experiment found that offering this service more than doubled the likelihood of an unregistered person registering to vote, particularly among young taxpayers. In Cleveland, newly-registered voter turnout during the 2018 primary election also increased.

Linking voter registration to tax filing is an effective tactic to engage low-income citizens in the political process — a group that is statistically less likely to be registered to vote and turn out at the polls — according to Williamson. Replicated at all VITA sites nationally, the effort could lead to roughly 115,000 unregistered voters becoming registered, the findings show.

Learn more about the Filer Voter Experiment and its findings here.