Mara Suttmann-Lea

Research Interests: American Political Development, Political Institutions, Campaigns, Election Law, Political Participation

Dissertation Title: Convenience at a Cost: The Unintended Consequences of Early Voting

 Dissertation Committee: Daniel Galvin (chair), James Druckman, Traci Burch, James Mahoney

Dissertation Description:

My dissertation, entitled “Convenience at a Cost: the Unintended Consequences of Early Voting,” finds that the adoption of no-excuse early voting—an ostensibly small institutional reform—has had a transformative effect on the dynamics of campaigns in the U.S. and the legal grounds on which elections are contested. Early voting is often studied for its effects (or lack thereof) on voter turnout. Departing from this approach, I argue the significance of this reform is not only to be found in its relationship to voter turnout but in how it has reshaped the broader dynamics of election campaigns in the United States. These effects—overlooked in existing literature—only become explicable when one views the process of institutional change and adaptation by political actors across multiple states over a long stretch of time. I use comparative-historical methods and quantitative analysis to investigate how these actors—campaigns, party organizations, and interest groups—adapted to the adoption of early voting in six American states since the 1970s: Washington, California, Texas, Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Ohio. I show how, despite considerable variation between these states, the same institutional reform has had remarkably similar effects on their elections process: raising the costs of campaigns, adding to their litigiousness, and politicizing election administration. The goal of this research, then, is to show how early voting has become a central feature of American political development whose impact is clearly evident today.


Methods Training Grants Awarded by Northwestern University:

The Institute for Qualitative Methods Research at Syracuse University (2014)

The Institute for Survey Research at the University of Michigan ($2187, 2012)

Research Grants:

Minar Memorial Summer Award ($1000)

Northwestern University Graduate Research Grant ($2524, 2015)


Northwestern University Fellowship (2011-2012, 2014-2015)

Teaching Awards:

Nominee for the Weinberg College Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award