Election Timing and the Electoral Influence of Interest Groups

35 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2009 Last revised: 13 Apr 2010

See all articles by Sarah Anzia

Sarah Anzia

University of California, Berkeley

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

Suggested Citation

Anzia, Sarah, Election Timing and the Electoral Influence of Interest Groups (March 18, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1480428 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1480428

Sarah Anzia (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

2607 Hearst Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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