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date: 18 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This essay reviews the regulations and customs of elections in the United States since the colonial period. It identifies six historical eras with distinct rules governing the conduct of elections. The earliest electoral contests functioned with highly informal voting procedures and electioneering practices that varied widely from place to place. Voting procedures became more standardized during the nineteenth century thanks to political parties. A broad set of mostly state-level initiatives around 1900 robbed the parties of some of their key functions in the electoral system. Incumbents have used the regulation of elections to better entrench themselves in office. The candidate-centered contests of the twentieth century increasingly relied on money and the mass media. Voting and electioneering practices are now adjusting to the impact of the internet and social media.

Keywords: suffrage, ballot, primary, campaign finance, candidate, voting procedures

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