35 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2009 Last revised: 13 Apr 2010
Date Written: March 18, 2010
It is an established fact that off-cycle elections attract lower voter turnout than elections that are held concurrently with other elections. I argue that the decrease in turnout that accompanies off-cycle election timing does not occur uniformly across the electorate; rather, it creates a strategic opportunity for organized interest groups. Members of interest groups with a large stake in an election outcome turn out at high rates regardless of election timing, and their efforts to mobilize and persuade voters are more likely to have an impact on the outcome when turnout is low. Off-cycle election timing therefore enhances the electoral influence of the largest and best organized interest group in a polity, such that policy made by officials elected in off-cycle elections should be more favorable to the dominant interest group than policy made by officials elected in on-cycle elections. I test this theory using data on school district elections in the U.S., in which teacher unions are the dominant interest group. I find that districts with off-cycle elections pay experienced teachers over 3 percent more than districts that hold on-cycle elections.
Keywords: election, timing, interest group, representation
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