Meet 2019 Centennial Center Research Grant Recipient Bernard Tamas

Bernard Tamas is associate professor of political science at Valdosta State University. He received funding from the Centennial Center Research Grants program for his project “Does Voter Suppression and Malapportionment Inflate Electoral Bias? A district-level analysis of US House elections.” Before joining Valdosta State University, Tamas was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, a Fulbright scholar at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and a visiting research scholar at Columbia University.

Dr. Tamas’ research interests are in the field of electoral systems with a focus on minor parties and electoral bias, especially in single-member district (SMD) electoral systems. His most recent book, “The Demise and Rebirth of American Third Parties” (Routledge 2018), provides an explanation for the decline of US third parties starting around 1920 and then their subsequent revival beginning in 1968. His current research focuses on the how single-member districts can produce various types of disproportionality, and why this bias poses a threat to democracy.

A recent article by Dr. Tamas demonstrated that single-member district electoral systems produce electoral bias for reasons far beyond gerrymandering. It also demonstrated that over the past century electoral bias in US House elections would have been large even if gerrymandering had been eliminated. Expanding on this argument, for his project funded jointly by the APSA Centennial Grant (Ostrom Fund) and the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, Dr. Tamas hypothesizes that any form of voter underrepresentation, whether voter suppression, malapportionment, or even simply sagging turnout, can increase electoral bias against the party that represents the underrepresented group, especially if that underrepresentation is in any way geographically concentrated. Effectively, this implies a “double whammy” for the underrepresented group, in which their representation in elected office is decreased both because they provide fewer votes and because this decrease in votes compounds itself through disproportionality that inflates the number of seats certain parties receive relative to their voter support. Dr. Tamas is preparing a journal article based on his findings from the APSA and MIT funded grants. Following this he plans to expand his research on electoral bias into a book about elections in Australia, Canada, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States over the past century and a half.

Dr. Tamas plans to build a publicly available electronic database of all district-level elections to the US House of Representatives from 1840 to 2018. This database will include data on every candidate who ran in a US House election during this period. It will be housed at the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, and will also be made publicly available via the Valdosta State University website. As a second phase of his project, Dr. Tamas plans to expand the dataset to also include information on all elections in Australia, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom, since 1867 (or whenever the country democratized).

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Since 2003, the Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs has offered scholars a wide selection of funds that can be applied to the costs of research, including travel, interviews, access to archives, or costs for a research assistant. In order to provide additional support to our members during the current crisis, this year the Centennial Center is making research grants more flexible by expanding the categories of costs eligible for funding. Eligible costs now include: 1) Research costs associated with interviews and surveys, access to archives, and more 2) Salary support for PIs 3) Salary support for research assistants 4) Per diems regardless of location 5) Research software and hardware, including devices necessary for scholars with disabilities to conduct their research. We recognize that APSA members may have needs not included in the above list. If you have a cost that is not listed here, please contact us at centennial@apsanet.org. Grants typically range from $500-$1500 but funds can be requested in any amount up to $2500 maximum. The next application deadline will be in June 2021. Learn more and apply!

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