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Schafer, Jerome and Holbein, John B. (2020): When Time Is of the Essence: A Natural Experiment on How Time Constraints Influence Elections. In: Journal of Politics, Vol. 82, No. 2: pp. 418-432

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Foundational theories of voter turnout suggest that time is a key input in the voting decision, but we possess little causal evidence about how this resource affects electoral behavior. In this article, we use over two decades of elections data and a novel geographic regression discontinuity design that leverages US time zone boundaries. Our results show that exogenous shifts in time allocations have significant political consequences. Namely, we find that citizens are less likely to vote if they live on the eastern side of a time zone border. Time zones also exacerbate participatory inequality and push election results toward Republicans. Exploring potential mechanisms, we find suggestive evidence that these effects are the consequence of insufficient sleep and moderated by the convenience of voting. Regardless of the exact mechanisms, our results indicate that local differences in daily schedules affect how difficult it is to vote and shape the composition of the electorate.

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