The students had to meet a deadline, which affected the survey results, Coyle wrote in an essay describing the project. She added that participants’ response to the project was disappointing, partly because it was difficult to get people to complete the survey.
“With a response rate of 6 percent of those who received a phone call and an error rate of 18 percent, it wasn’t possible to accurately determine the meaning of the data with any feeling of confidence,” she wrote. “However, a comparison of the demographic characteristics from the survey with those available through the Census Bureau revealed that the sample may be an adequate reflection of the voting behavior and attitudes of Ada’s citizens.”
Coyle said Wednesday that participants rated several options for boosting turnout, including electronic voting, a lower voting age and a longer early-voting period. She had expected people to say that those options would increase turnout, but they surprised her.
“I thought maybe one of the other options, like vote by mail,” she said. “I thought older people would choose that one, but they really didn’t.”
Coyle said participants disliked the city’s at-large election system, in which all registered voters choose councilmen regardless of the candidate’s home district. She said participants favored a ward-based system, in which council members are elected by the voters in that district rather than by all voters.
Coyle said the students recommended steps the city could take to boost voter turnout, such as producing a pamphlet about specific issues and candidates on the ballot. She said that information would have to come from an unbiased source and appear three days before the election.
“I think if you distribute it earlier than three days ahead of time, people will forget,” she said. “So I think right about three days before election day is a good time to do that, like the first day of early voting.”