Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy > Vol 3 > Issue 2

Franchise Expansion and Legislative Representation in the Early United States

Stephen Ansolabehere, Department of Government, Harvard University, USA, , Jaclyn Kaslovsky, Department of Political Science, Rice University, USA, , Michael P. Olson, Department of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis, USA,
Suggested Citation
Stephen Ansolabehere, Jaclyn Kaslovsky and Michael P. Olson (2022), "Franchise Expansion and Legislative Representation in the Early United States", Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy: Vol. 3: No. 2, pp 243-271.

Publication Date: 28 Jun 2022
© 2022 S. Ansolabehere, J. Kaslovsky and M. P. Olson
Elective franchisevoting rightslegislative representation


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In this article:
Franchise Expansion and the Early American Context 
Data and Empirical Strategy 
Discussion and Conclusion 


What role did the size and scope of the elective franchise play in the political and economic development of the young United States? In this paper, we explore whether the relaxation of economic franchise restrictions in the first decades of the United States resulted in changes in legislative behavior. We focus on two measures that capture political conflict in this period of American history: ideal point estimates that measure the revealed ideology of members of Congress, and appropriations for rivers and harbors development. We find that the removal of property-holding requirements is associated with a shift in roll call voting and an increase in targeted appropriations on local river and harbor improvements. The results suggest that franchise expansion contributed to the political-economic development of the early American Republic and provide new evidence of an electoral connection in the early American Congress.