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Analyzing electoral timing and outcomes through Georgia’s special purpose local option sales taxes

Author: COURTNEY A. COLLINS and JOHN A. DOVE
Published in PFM, Vol. 13 No. 4

A large body of literature has attempted to understand how the timing of popular referenda may impact the electoral outcomes that emerge. This current work adds to that literature by exploring the adoption of both educational and special purpose local option sales taxes (known as (E)SPLOSTs) by counties within the state of Georgia between 1985 and 2009. The study analyzes how much the timing of an election, (whether it is a ballot measure placed during a special, general, or primary election), actually impacts the approval rate of such a measure, the probability that it passes, and overall voter turnout. Our evidence suggests that holding a special election for (E)SPLOST measures significantly increases approval rates and the probability that the measure passes, and decreases voter turnout, especially relative to other types of elections. These results are robust to a number of specifications, and may be suggestive of the importance of agenda control in manipulating the median voter and electoral outcomes broadly.

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