How the Delegation of Voting Rights Affects the Measurement of Voting Behavior
40 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2007 Last revised: 4 Nov 2007
Date Written: October 31, 2007
There is substantial agreement in political science literature that election laws shape electoral outcomes. The existing literature assumes that election laws are implemented as written, but there is extensive anecdotal evidence that this is not the case. States delegate the administration of elections to county and municipal officials. We argue that these administrators are frequently unaware of or misinformed about the laws, granted insufficient resources to properly determine who is eligible (or ineligible) to vote, and have incentives to purposefully act in opposition to state and federal law. In order to test these claims we collected original data on the partisanship of local registrars and turnout in state elections. In a cross-sectional analysis we find that Democratic and Republican registrars increase turnout of their partisans in gubernatorial elections, but that these effects can be mitigated by institutions set up to monitor the electoral process like bipartisan boards. We show that Democratic registrars are significantly more likely to increase Democratic turnout in competitive elections while Republican registrars increase Republican turnout only in noncompetitive elections.
Keywords: elections, voting, administration, delegation, local, state
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