According to numerous studies, the election-year economy influences presidential election results far more than cumulative growth throughout the term. Here we describe a series of surveys and experiments that point to an intriguing explanation for this pattern that runs contrary to standard political science explanations, but one that accords with a large psychological literature. Voters, we find, actually intend to judge presidents on cumulative growth. However, since that characteristic is not readily available to them, voters inadvertently substitute election-year performance because it is more easily accessible. This “end-heuristic” explanation for voters’ election-year emphasis reflects a general tendency for people to simplify retrospective assessments by substituting conditions at the end for the whole. The end-heuristic explanation also suggests a remedy, a way to align voters’ actions with their intentions. Providing people with the attribute they are seeking—cumulative growth—eliminates the election-year emphasis.