The Impact of Partisan Electoral Regulation: Ballot Effects from the California Alphabet Lottery, 1978-2002

42 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2004  

Daniel E. Ho

Stanford Law School

Kosuke Imai

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 28, 2004

Abstract

How does partisan regulation of political markets affect elections? We investigate how the partisan control of ballot format, which is expressly regulated - often to the apparent advantage of incumbents and major parties - in all U.S. states, affects voting. Through the analysis of a unique natural experiment, we focus specifically on the longstanding question of whether the name order of candidates on ballots affects election outcomes. Since 1975, California law has mandated randomizing the ballot order with a lottery. Previous studies, relying overwhelmingly on observational data, have yielded largely conflicting results. Using improved statistical methods, our analysis of statewide elections from 1978 to 2002 reveals that ballot order might have changed the winner in twelve percent of all primary races, including major and minor party races. We propose that all electoral jurisdictions should randomize ballot order to minimize ballot effects, and show that randomization may be substantially more cost-effective at reducing voting bias than currently proposed voting technology reforms.

Keywords: ballots, elections, causal inference, natural experiment, randomization, fisher test, partisan cue

JEL Classification: C90, D72, K00

Suggested Citation

Ho, Daniel E. and Imai, Kosuke, The Impact of Partisan Electoral Regulation: Ballot Effects from the California Alphabet Lottery, 1978-2002 (October 28, 2004). Princeton Law & Public Affairs Paper No. 04-001: Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 89. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=496863 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.496863

Daniel E. Ho (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-723-9560 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://dho.stanford.edu

Kosuke Imai

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States

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