Book Project: The Proliferation of State and Local Elections in the United States, 1776-1900

In my book-style dissertation, I address the puzzle of American electoral exceptionalism - why does the U.S. fill so many government offices by direct election?

Circa 1787, Americans elected very few state and local officials.  Yet, by the 20th century they elected far more politicians than any other country. This feature is at the heart of our modern political system, but we know little about its origins and development. In this dissertation, I present original data and a theoretical framework for thinking about "electoralization" -- the process by which state governments proliferated elected offices at the state and county levels -- in the century after Independence.


I present a model of a bargaining problem, faced by all governments, in which leaders must simultaneously fill public offices and fully fund the government's budget. Applying the model to the early American states, I argue that the growth of elective offices stemmed from political elites' fears that suffrage expansion would threaten their control of unitary executive power. To marshal evidence for my theory, I pair a novel dataset on electoralization from 1776 to 1900 with a difference-in-difference approach, taking advantage of the states' asynchronous timing of suffrage expansion to estimate the effect of Universal Male Suffrage on the number of elected offices.

Job Market Paper

"Elite Responses to Suffrage Expansion: The Rise of State and Local Elections in the U.S., 1776-1900" [pdf]

Works in Progress

"Would Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico Change Congress? A Counterfactual Analysis"

"Do Elections Improve Government Services? Evidence from Sheriff Minimization of Jail Deaths" with Daniel Thompson

"The Origins of Directly Elected Police: County Sheriffs in Early America"

Other Research

"Metal By Numbers: Revisiting the Uneven Distribution of Heavy Metal Music" (2018). Metal Music Studies, Vol. 4:3, pp. 559-571. (Replication code and data available here)

"Balancing Inflation and Unemployment: Text Analysis of Annual Monetary Policy Reports'' (2013), Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics, Vol. 13:1, pp. 1-16.

[Cited in Cornell Law Review, Nov. 2016]

Working Papers

"Packing Committees in the U.S. House: The Strategic Use of Territorial Delegates after 1970"

(In preparation for submission) [pdf]

"The Enigma of Native Representative: Evidence from Maine" with Elliot Mamet

(Under review) 

© 2020 by Cameron DeHart