The Effect of Section 5 on Enfranchisement: Evidence From North Carolina
Journal of Politics, Vol.80, No.2 (April 2018)
Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act required covered jurisdictions—those deemed perniciously politically discriminatory to minorities—to preclear changes to their voting practices with the Department of Justice. By exploiting the use of a federally imposed threshold for how Section 5 coverage was applied in North Carolina, this article estimates the effect of coverage using a difference-in-differences design. This article finds that Section 5 coverage increased black voter registration by 14–19 percentage points, white registration by 10–13 percentage points, and overall voter turnout by 10–19 percentage points. Additional results for Democratic vote share suggest that some of this overall increase in turnout may have come from reactionary whites. This article finds that Section 5 coverage had a statistically and substantively meaningful effect on enfranchisement, although an effect consistent with the more modest of extant estimates in the literature.
Industrial Revolution and Political Change: Evidence from the British Isles
Does economic modernization facilitate greater turnover in the political elite? I empirically assess the extent to which the Industrial Revolution in Britain created greater diversity of political representation, against the null hypothesis that entrenched pre-industrial elites persisted in power. To do so, I use an original dataset of Member of Parliament (MP) biographical information to measure political competition, the presence of political dynasties, and the circulation of new economic interests through political power. Leveraging sub-national variation in industrialization over more than 150 years in both a differences-in-differences analysis and an instrumental variables analysis, I find that industrialization diversified the economic interests of MPs, increased electoral competition and reduced the presence of political dynasties. Thus, new representatives were not simply the old elite in a new economic guise. I interpret this as evidence in support of modernization theory --- economic modernization in the British Isles broke entrenched elites' direct hold on political power.
Political Representation in the Era of Britain's Expanding Overseas Trade
This paper considers the political consequences of the dramatic expansion of British overseas trade beginning in the late 16th century brought about by the discovery of new ocean shipping routes to Asia and the Americas. Using an original individual-level dataset on the characteristics of Members of Parliament in England and Wales spanning two centuries (1550-1750), I examine the differential effect of an aggregate trend in expanding trade for constituencies more (as compared to less) directly connected to the expanding commercial economy. I find some evidence that trade increased electoral contests and shifted representation towards the commercial elite, but little evidence that expanding trade fundamentally empowered new societal groups on other dimensions --- dynastic and aristocratic MPs, two markers of the traditional elite, were unaffected by the change. Together these findings suggest conditions under which economic change produces a transformation in the political elite.
Polling Place Changes and Political Participation: Evidence from North Carolina Presidential Elections, 2008-2016
How is turnout affected by the decisions of election administrators to move Election Day polling places? We study the behavior of more than 2 million unique eligible voters across three presidential elections (2008-2016) in the swing state of North Carolina. We gather spatial information on the location of nearly every Election Day polling place location and we geolocate each voter relative to their polling place. Leveraging within-voter variation in polling place location change over time, we demonstrate that polling place changes reduce Election Day voting statewide on average, but that this effect is almost completely offset by substitution into early voting. This result obtains whether polling place changes increase or decrease travel costs, but Republican-led changes reduce overall turnout by producing less substitution relative to Democratic-led changes. We interpret our findings as highlighting the importance of early voting and voting primes for mitigating the non-travel costs of polling place changes.
The Politics of Locating Polling Places: Race and Partisanship in North Carolina Election Administration, 2008-2016
The allocation of polling places and the assignment of voters into precincts in the US appear to be neutral, bureaucratic decisions. Despite this, accounts of elites manipulating the location of polling places by the race and partisanship of potential voters have become increasingly common. We systematically evaluate these accounts using a unique dataset of the universe of eligible voters, polling place locations and precinct boundaries across three presidential elections in the closely contested state of North Carolina. We do not find evidence that local administrators allocate precincts and polling places in a manner consistent with partisan manipulation for electoral gain. While we find that a small subset of counties appear to differentially target opposition party voters with these changes, closer examination reveals that these estimates are likely due to random variation, not deliberate manipulation. Furthermore, we find little evidence that the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision, which removed minority voter protections in some North Carolina counties, had a fundamental impact on polling place allocation. Our results demonstrate the importance of examining statewide effects when thinking about the consequences of local administrative decisions for elections.
Political Survival in Pinochet's Chile
with Jane Esberg
How do democratically-elected politicians survive being removed from power by an authoritarian regime? We investigate the determinants of political survival across Chile’s military dictatorship (1973-1990), which disbanded the national legislature and disrupted sources ofpolitical dominance. We collect individual-level biographical data on the universe of deputies and senators in Chile’s National Congress and archival data on the experiences of those politicians under the Pinochet regime —-- including whether pre-1973 politicians were incorporated into the Pinochet government, sent into exile abroad, or employed in the domestic privatesector. Among politicians on the ideological left, we show that exiled politicians were just as electorally successful as those leftist politicians who remained in the domestic private sector. Moreover, while we find evidence that politicians who found positions within the Pinochetregime were more likely to win elections after democratization than their counterparts on the right who did not, this relationship is a consequence of which politicians were selected by the regime. Although political dynasties are an important feature of Chilean politics, we do not document an important role of this familial power in moderating the effect of trajectories or providing an alternative method of political survival.
Research in Progress
Enfranchisement and Incarceration Following the 1965 Voting Rights Act
with Nick Eubank
We study how local elites in the US South responded to the enfranchisement of blacks after the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) removed their ability to use Jim Crow policies to limit minority political participation. In particular, we (aim to) evaluate the extent to which white elites responded to black enfranchisement with the increased and racially-targeted use of local institutions of the carceral state --- police, the courts and the prison system. To test whether carceral institutions became a de facto "New Jim Crow" we collect new and unique panel data on prison intake by-county by-race for the 11 states of the former Confederacy from approximately 1940-1990. We (aim to) use this data in a difference-in-differences research design to isolate the effect of the VRA on black criminal sentences, sentence length, and incarceration rates. Along with temporal variation from before to after the adoption of the VRA in 1965, our research design exploits two forms of geographic variation in the impact of the VRA across counties and states. First, we leverage the fact that not all counties in the former Confederacy were subject to the key provisions of the VRA, including federal monitoring of voter registration and Section 5 pre-clearance of changes to voting related practices. And second, following existing work, we assess how the impact of the VRA varied by states' pre-VRA legal regimes. We (plan to) test whether states with pre-VRA Jim Crow laws (e.g. literacy tests and poll taxes) saw larger changes in black carceral outcomes following imposition of the VRA than those without such laws. We also (plan to) test a prominent alternative explanation in the literature for how black incarceration rates responded to black enfranchisement: that increased black incarceration was a product of blacks --- particularly middle-class blacks --- using their new-found political power in the wake of the Civil Rights movement to police their own communities because white elites had not previously had the incentive to do so. As one test of this "Self-policing" argument, we (plan to) evaluate whether the effect of the VRA on county-level black incarceration rates varies by the race of local elected officials, data on which we request funding to continue to collect. If the increase in black incarceration rates is driven by efforts by the black electorate and their representatives to control rising crime in their own communities, we would expect increased minority incarceration when blacks obtain local office. Our project seeks to make a contribution to literatures on minority politics, the effectiveness of civil rights legislation, and the sources of contemporary mass incarceration by providing the first systematic empirical test of two prominent arguments linking political representation to the use of the carceral state.
Constitutional Commitments and the Great Reform Act
with Gary Cox
Voter Perceptions of Dynastic Candidates: Experimental Evidence from the US
Political dynasties have generally been seen as puzzle in democratic contexts, antithetical to democratic ideals about the broad opportunity structure of political power. While existing theories note an important institutional component in perpetuating this type of establishment politician, less work has examined the puzzle of democratic dynasties from the perspective of voters. I employ a conjoint survey experiment embedded in a nationally representative survey of US adults to evaluate the causal effect of dynastic political ties independent of other important candidate attributes. I show that respondents are largely unresponsive to the dynastic status of candidates, despite strong preferences for candidates with more political experience of other types. This unresponsiveness occurs despite dynastic candidates being perceived as less competent, yet also less susceptible to outside political influence. My findings suggest that while voters do make inferences about various features of candidate competency and integrity based on dynastic status, those inferences are not sufficient in the contemporary US landscape to affect vote choice, though they may in less polarized contexts.
Booms, Busts and Elite Concentration in the Chilean Nitrate Era
with Jane Esberg
Do natural resources affect the ability of local elites to entrench themselves in power? We study the boom and bust cycle of the nitrate industry in northern Chile during the first part of the 20th century. During that period, Chile had the only commercially viable sources of sodium nitrate; a valuable commodity used as both a fertilizer and explosive. Nitrate exports accounted for two third of Chile's total exports and half of government revenues during the period, but the development of a synthetic alternative in the 1920s led to a collapse of the industry. Using new panel data on mayors, parliamentary representatives, vote shares, and nitrate extraction, we evaluate the extent of differential individual and familial (dynastic) incumbency advantage in nitrate-rich as compared to non-nitrate rich areas over the boom and bust cycle of the industry. By exploiting the exogenous bust of the industry, we're able to evaluate whether patterns of elite entrenchment are related to the presence of the highly valuable resource, or other local time-varying factors. Our preliminary results document lower levels of individual and familial incumbency in nitrate-rich areas during the boom years --- results that run counter to standard resource-curse theory. We also find no differential change in elite concentration when the nitrate industry busted. Our ongoing work is investigating potential causes of these findings in an effort to inform theory that can be tested out-of-sample.