How Voting Emerged in the Early American Republic

Political cartoon about voting

The Emergence of Routinized Elections in the Early Republic


Missouri Professor of Political Science Jay Dow will give a talk at Missouri’s Kinder Institute, a JMC partner program, on some of the forces underlying the defining shift in American electoral politics and culture that occurred over the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries.

Friday, February 23, 2018 • 3:30PM
Jesse Hall 410, University of Missouri

Abstract: This study traces the development of routinized elections in the early republic, 1789-1824. By “routinized” I mean the establishment of elections as the primary means by which ordinary citizens convey their political goals, aspirations, and preferences to governing elites and hold these officials accountable for their actions in office. The defining feature of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century American politics, a period we commonly call the first party era, was the transition from “deferential” politics, in which local elites exercised great influence over elections in their communities, to an electoral politics in which the enfranchised increasingly became self-determining, organized along party alliances and responsive to political issues and events. In this talk, I will focus on how legislative election rules affected the ability of political elites to organize among themselves and mass supporters to elect preferred candidates and form the nascent parties. The variety of electoral rules in force in the early republic have different implications for the ease or difficulty or organizing along proto-party alliances and, hence, for the development of routinized elections. I explore these questions using election returns to statehouse lower chambers and the U.S. House of Representatives obtained from the New Nation Votes (NNV) project.

>>Learn more about the event here. 


Jay Dow photoJay Dow is Professor of Political Science, 2017-2020 Frederick A. Middlebush Chair in Political Science, and a member of the Kinder Institute’s Faculty Advisory Council. Before coming to the University of Missouri, he earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon and a Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin. Professor Dow’s research focuses on voting and elections, which he approaches from the public choice tradition in political science, as reflected in his recent book, Electing the House: The Adoption and Performance of the Single-Member District Electoral System (University Press of Kansas, March 2017). Professor Dow regularly teaches courses on American government, parties and elections, and American political thought, as well as the “Constitutional Debates” course for the Kinder Institute’s Honors College series, and he also organizes the Jefferson Book Club, an extracurricular undergraduate reading group that meets monthly to discuss great books in the classical liberal tradition.

>>Learn more about Jay Dow.

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