Voting is an indispensable feature of American democracy. Voting amplifies the voice of the electorate. Not voting disempowers individuals and communities. Despite protective legislation such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many Americans experience electoral difficulties today. Following record-breaking turnout in the 2020 presidential election and under the guise of election security, some Republican lawmakers have introduced and supported legislation that restricts the ability of many Americans to vote. Research on communities of color, low-income communities, and disabled communities demonstrates the inhibitive effect of these measures. In contrast, conventional wisdom claims that older voters are more likely to vote than younger voters. One theory to explain this disparity is that older voters face fewer obstacles to voting. This thesis investigates the validity of that claim by comparing voter turnout, reasons for not voting, and reported difficulty voting in the 2020 American presidential election. Using an intersectional approach, this thesis hypothesizes that elderly Americans face additional challenges voting as the effects of age compound the marginalization of other identities. In a series of logistic regressions conducted using data from the American National Election Studies and the Cooperative Election Study in 2020, this thesis finds that elderly voters are more likely to have participated in the 2020 presidential election. This thesis also finds that young nonvoters report not voting due to psychological reasons at higher rates than older nonvoters, while older nonvoters report not voting due to institutional barriers. Finally, this thesis finds that voters who report poor health report have an increased probability of reporting difficulties voting. Despite not finding widespread support, this thesis concludes by arguing that the electoral rights of elderly Americans remain a salient issue for researchers, organizers, and policymakers.


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Graduation Date





Larsen, Kelsey


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Sciences


School of Politics, Security and International Affairs

Degree Program

Political Science




CFE0008913; DP0026192



Release Date

December 2021

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)