Working Papers

Polarization and State Legislative Elections

U.S. state legislatures are critical policymaking bodies and the major pipeline of candidates to national office. Polarization in state legislatures has increased substantially in recent decades, yet we understand little about the role of elections …

No Evidence for Voter Fraud: A Guide To Statistical Claims About the 2020 Election

After the 2020 US presidential election Donald Trump refused to concede, alleging widespread and unparalleled voter fraud. Trump’s supporters deployed several statistical claims that supposedly demonstrated that Joe Biden’s electoral victory in some …

Are Dead People Voting By Mail? Evidence From Washington State Administrative Records

A commonly expressed concern about vote-by-mail in the United States is that mail-in ballots are sent to dead people, stolen by bad actors, and counted as fraudulent votes. To evaluate how often this occurs in practice, we study the state of Washington, which sends every registered voter a mail-in ballot. We link counted ballots and adminis- trative death records to estimate the rate at which dead people’s mail-in ballots are improperly counted as valid votes, using birth dates from online obituaries to address false positives. Among roughly 4.5 million distinct voters in Washington state between 2011 and 2018, we estimate that there are 14 deceased individuals whose ballots might have been cast suspiciously long after their death, representing 0.0003% of voters. Even these few cases may reflect two individuals with the same name and birth date, or clerical errors, rather than fraud. After exploring the robustness of our findings to weaker conditions for matching names, we conclude that it seems extraordinarily rare for dead people’s ballots to be counted as votes in Washington’s universal vote-by-mail system.

Who Becomes a Member of Congress? Evidence from De-Anonymized Census Data

We link future members of Congress to the de-anonymized 1940 census to offer a uniquely detailed analysis of how economically unrepresentative American politicians were in the 20th century, and why.

Understanding the Legislative Gender Gap: Evidence from U.S. States

Women legislators are more likely to serve on committees related to women’s issues and to sponsor women’s issues bills, but it is unclear if these patterns are driven by district preferences, differences in background, or institutional factors. We introduce new data on the legislative activities of over 25,000 U.S. state legislators to help explain these patterns.

Ideology and News Content in Contested U.S. House Primaries

Pundits and scholars often claim that congressional primary elections favor extremist candidates, but the mechanisms by which primary voters might learn about candidate platforms are not well understood. In this paper, we collect a new dataset of …

Economic Distress and Voting: Evidence from the Subprime Mortgage Crisis

Roughly 7 million Americans lost homes to foreclosure during the Great Recession. Despite claims that the subprime mortgage crisis helped fuel recent political turmoil in the U.S., we lack systematic empirical evidence about the effects of this …