Mara Suttmann-Lea

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For my dissertation, I collected thousands of pages of original data from state archives and online newspaper archives documenting the process by which states adopted early voting laws, and adaptation by campaigns and party organizations to these laws over time. These data span from the late 1960s to present day.

First, I collected data in person from state archives across the United States. The collection of this data began with a cross-country road trip in the summer of 2015 for which I was funded through The Graduate School at Northwestern University. Over the course of a month, I drove to and collected data from six state archives: Texas, New Mexico, California, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming. Since then, I have also traveled to archives in Ohio and Wisconsin. To my knowledge, this data is the first of its kind used in the study of early voting reforms. Data collected includes recordings and transcripts of testimonials given during committee hearings, legislative reports, findings from legislative research committees, details from floor debates, bill analysis, letters sent in support of and against legislation from interest groups, politicians, and citizens, and correspondence between elected representatives, state election administrators, and interest groups.

Second, I collected data from newspaper archives housed online through Newsbank. Analyzing the process of political adaptation to early voting laws is difficult, as there are not centralized, standardized measures of changes in campaign strategies over time. Instead, I had to rely on accounts presented in newspapers that included interviews with campaign strategists, candidates, and leaders of state and local party organizations to develop an accurate timeline both of the nature of adaptation and when adaptation occurred within a given state. I coded over ten thousand newspaper articles in the process of data collection. Using a specific set of search terms to identify articles pertaining to early voting and political campaigns, I coded articles for each state case in my dissertation from 1970 to present day, identifying patterns in adaptation to early voting by campaigns and party organizations over time .

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