Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 6 > Issue 2

Election Timing and Public Policy

Christopher R. Berry, 1Associate Professor of Public Policy, University of Chicago, USA, crberry@uchicago.edu , Jacob E. Gersen, Professor of Law, Harvard University, USA, jgersen@law.harvard.edu
Suggested Citation
Christopher R. Berry and Jacob E. Gersen (2011), "Election Timing and Public Policy", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 6: No. 2, pp 103-135. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00010070

Publication Date: 25 Sep 2011
© 2011 C. R. Berry and J. E. Gersen
Elections,  Representation,  Public policy


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In this article:
Election Timing, Selective Participation, and Public Policy 
Empirical Analysis 


There are nearly half a million elected officials in American local governments, and the timing of local elections varies enormously even within the same state. Some local elections are held simultaneously with major federal and state races, while others are held at times when no higher level elections coincide. We analyze the effect of election timing by exploiting a 1980s change in the California Election Code, which allowed school districts to change their elections from off-cycle to on-cycle. Because we are able to observe very large within-district changes in voter turnout resulting from changes in election timing, we are able to isolate the effect of turnout on policy outcomes, including teacher salaries and student achievement tests. Our analysis demonstrates that while election timing produces dramatic changes in voter turnout, resulting changes in public policy are modest in size and not robust statistically.