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The Twin Cities Offer Free Election Day Transit—Does it Matter?

There is little, or no, evidence that offering free transit on election day improves voter turnout. Today the Twin Cities will do it anyway for the sake of, hopefully, improving the democratic process.
November 4, 2014, 8am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"On Tuesday, Metro Transit—the Twin Cities’ growing public transportation network—will offer bus, light rail, and commuter rail services free of charge," reports Sam Sturgis. "This is in response to a statewide law passed last year that requires Minnesota’s cities to provide free public transit on national election days. This is pretty uncommon: Only a handful of major U.S. cities—including Dallas, Houston, Tampa, and now the Twin Cities—offer complimentary transit on election day."

Sturgis notes that free transit has a "negligible influence on the number of voters that turn out to the polls" in those cities. The most important factor in getting people to vote is enthusiasm.

But Sturgis also argues at the article's conclusion that maybe cities should offer free transit despite any evidence that it might improve turnouts, by quoting Yale political scientist Alan S. Geber: "Making transportation free on election day is a clear statement that society values voting…"

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Published on Monday, November 3, 2014 in CityLab
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