Constitutional Law Article

Complementary Constraints: Separation of Powers, Rational Voting, and Constitutional Design

Vol. 123 No. 3 This Article explores how the separation of powers affects voter’s electoral strategies, and how this interaction influences the performance of different institutional arrangements. We show that when one political agent, such as the President, acts unilaterally, voters are likely to respond asymmetrically to policy successes and failures in order to offset the risk that the President may be biased or “captured” by special interest groups. When political agents act in concert – such as when the President seeks congressional authorization for a policy initiative – voters prefer a more refined strategy, with less acute asymmetries between political rewards and punishments.