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How Electoral Institutions Affect Political Accountability

This research finds that expansion of vote at home systems increases turnout and reduces ballot roll-off.

Abstract: “A central question in the study of democratic governance concerns the conditions under which voters make informed choices at the ballot box. I exploit the staggered implementation of an electoral reform in a U.S. state to study the effects of electoral institutions on voter information and political accountability. I find that [vote at home] elections cause an increase in turnout in municipal elections and a decrease in ballot roll-off on statewide ballot measures in presidential election years in some counties, which is largely consistent with my argument that voters gather more information about politics when voting by mail. Further, there is strong evidence that vote-by-mail results in a decrease in taxing and spending in municipalities. The institution has less conclusive effects on municipal accountability audit outcomes. Using data from the Catalist voter file I show that these results cannot be explained by changes in the composition of the electorate caused by vote-by-mail.”

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