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Election Time: Normative Implications of Temporal Properties of the Electoral Process in the United States


Elections take place at intervals, most citizens vote on the same day, and the electoral outcome is irrevocable until the next election. Each of these temporal properties—periodicity, simultaneity, and finality—is grounded in fundamental democratic values. Analyzing the properties shows how and why several anomalies in electoral theory and practice in the United States should be eliminated. Together the properties mark off electoral politics as a sphere that requires different and often more stringent standards than the rest of political life outside of government. Periodicity requires that the control of redistricting be independent of legislatures. Simultaneity opposes publishing the results of exit polls, expanding the use of early voting, and granting legislatures the authority to select presidential electors on their own schedule. Finality justifies more stringent regulation of campaign practices, such as electioneering ads.

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Alfred North Whitehead Professor, Department of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138 (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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