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Election Officials: How Selection Methods Shape Their Policy Preferences and Affect Voter Turnout

42 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2010  

Barry C. Burden

University of Wisconsin - Madison

David T. Canon

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Stéphane Lavertu

The Ohio State University -- John Glenn School of Public Affairs

Kenneth Mayer

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Donald P. Moynihan

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

Date Written: August 15, 2010

Abstract

The method by which we select public officials can have a significant effect on their incentives, the constraints they face, and ultimately the policy goals they pursue. We explore this phenomenon using election administration as a case. We examine differences in the policy preferences among elected and appointed election officials, and explore the relationship between those attitudes and the administrative outcomes they may engender. We employ a uniquely rich dataset that includes the survey responses of over 1,200 Wisconsin election officials, structured interviews with dozens of these officials, and data from the 2008 presidential election. Drawing upon a natural experiment in how clerks are selected, we find that elected officials support policies that emphasize voter access rather than ballot security, and that their municipalities are associated with higher voter turnout. For appointed officials, we find that voter turnout in a municipality is noticeably lower when the local election official’s partisanship differs from the partisanship of the electorate. Overall, our results support the notion that selection methods, and the incentives that flow from those methods, matter a great deal. Elected officials are more likely to express attitudes and generate outcomes that reflect their direct exposure to voters, in contrast to the more insulated position of appointed officials.

Keywords: election administration, appointment, turnout, election

JEL Classification: D72, D73

Suggested Citation

Burden, Barry C. and Canon, David T. and Lavertu, Stéphane and Mayer, Kenneth and Moynihan, Donald P., Election Officials: How Selection Methods Shape Their Policy Preferences and Affect Voter Turnout (August 15, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1659289 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1659289

Barry Burden

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

David Canon

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Stéphane Lavertu

The Ohio State University -- John Glenn School of Public Affairs ( email )

1810 College Rd
110 Page Hall
Columbus, OH 43210
United States

HOME PAGE: http://glennschool.osu.edu/faculty/lavertu/index.html

Kenneth Mayer

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

Donald Moynihan (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs ( email )

1180 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1393
United States

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