Research

My work examines the intersection of electoral institutions and political behavior in American politics. My dissertation project seeks to explain the gap between expectations of electoral reform in elite and public opinions, and the actual consequences of electoral reform. In doing so, study both behavior at the elite and popular levels as well as the impact of institutional design in the electoral arena.

My dissertation is built around four key chapters. First, I argue that research on "election reform," especially around cases of emerging reforms such as ranked-choice voting and vote by mail, needs to be done in a way that either examines both the representational and behavioral impacts of the reform, or is narrowly tailored to answer theoretically-driven questions using well-established techniques of case selection. My second paper leverages recent advances in instant-runoff (IRV) voting in Maine to analyze its effects within this framework, seeking to understand both the impacts of IRV on individual voters as well as the overall political system. 

My third dissertation paper seeks to more deeply understand the impact of the single-transferable vote (STV) system through a "most likely" case study of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I employ a series of IRT models and geographic analyses of ballot images to understand how people cast their votes for city council under STV and to uncover the representational impacts of this system. 

My final dissertation paper focuses on how electoral system change happens in the U.S., tracing the process from activists all the way through to elite and public opinion. Through the use of observational data, survey data, elite interviews, and a series of experiments, I put forward and test a theory of incremental electoral system change that better explains the ebbs and flows of the American electoral system since 1790. 

Outside my dissertation, I also conduct research on redistricting, political geography, and geographic methods. My working papers can be found in my CV, and all dissertation and working papers are available upon request. 

© 2020 by Jesse T. Clark