The Demobilizing Effect of Primary Electoral Institutions on Voters of Color
34 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2021 Last revised: 30 Jun 2021
Date Written: April 22, 2021
Are electoral institutions – such as closed primaries – associated with reduced levels of participation by people of color? We theorize and find that primary electoral institutions that bar independent voters from participating in first-round elections mechanically reduce participation in primary elections; and also reduce turnout among registered independents in second-round general elections. Closed primaries have large demobilizing impacts on Asian American and Latinx voters, as these voters are registered as independents at higher rates than whites. We examine nationally representative and validated survey data from 2012 to 2018. Open and top-two primaries are associated with higher turnout from independent voters of color in both primary and general elections. Implications are that party registration status and formal institutions differentially demobilize voters of color and whites.
Keywords: primaries, elections, legislatures, independent voters, Latino politics, Latinx politics, Asian American politics, open primaries, top two, electoral institutions
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