Elections, Institutions, and Accountability

Universal Vote-by-Mail Has No Impact on Partisan Turnout or Vote Share

In response to COVID-19, many scholars and policy makers are urging the United States to expand voting-by-mail programs to safeguard the electoral process, but there are concerns that such a policy could favor one party over the other. We estimate the effects of universal vote-by-mail, a policy under which every voter is mailed a ballot in advance of the election, on partisan election outcomes. We find that universal vote-by-mail does not affect either party’s share of turnout or either party’s vote share. These conclusions support the conventional wisdom of election administration experts and contradict many popular claims in the media. Our results imply that the partisan outcomes of vote-by-mail elections closely resemble in-person elections, at least in normal times.

How Divisive Primaries Hurt Parties: Evidence From Near-Runoffs

In many democracies, parties use primary elections to nominate candidates. Primaries may help parties select quality candidates, but they can also expose flaws and offend losing candidates’ supporters. Do divisive primaries help or harm parties in …

The Majority-Party Disadvantage: Revising Theories of Legislative Organization

We argue that the results from this approach are consistent with a phenomenon of inter-temporal balancing, which we link to other forms of partisan balancing in US elections. The paper thus necessitates revisions to our theories of legislative organization, offers new arguments for balancing theories, and lays out an empirical technique for studying the effects of majority-party status in legislative contexts.

Do Shark Attacks Influence Presidential Elections? Reassessing a Prominent Finding on Voter Competence

We reassess Achen and Bartels’ (2002, 2016) prominent claim that shark attacks influence presidential elections. First, we assemble data on every fatal shark attack in U.S. history and countylevel returns from every presidential election between 1872 …

Congressional seniority and pork: A pig fat myth?

Representatives in American legislatures win reelection at astounding rates, even when they fail to represent the median voter in their districts closely. One popular explanation for this puzzle is that incumbents deliver non-ideological benefits to …

Information and Wasted Votes: A Study of U.S. Primary Elections

Dominant theories of legislative organization in the US rest on the notion that the majority party arranges legislative matters to maximize its electoral fortunes. Yet, as we demonstrate in this paper, there is little or no short-term electoral …

How Much of the Incumbency Advantage is Due to Scare-Off?

This paper uses a regression discontinuity design to estimate the degree to which incumbents scare off challengers with previous officeholder experience. The estimates indicate a surprisingly small amount of scare-off, at least in cases where the …

Disentangling the Personal and Partisan Incumbency Advantages: Evidence from Close Elections and Term Limits

Although the scholarly literature on incumbency advantages focuses on personal advantages, the partisan incumbency advantage — the electoral benefit accruing to non-incumbent candidates by virtue of being from the incumbent party — is also an …

The Changing Value of Seniority in the U.S. House: Conditional Party Government Revised

In this article, we argue that institutional changes to the seniority system have electoral consequences to incumbents. Building on the theory of Conditional Party Government, we argue that the consolidation of power in the hands of party leadership …