Who Votes: City Election Timing and Voter Composition

American Political Science Review

53 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2021

See all articles by Zoltan L. Hajnal

Zoltan L. Hajnal

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Vladimir Kogan

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Political Science

G. Agustin Markarian

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 16, 2021

Abstract

Low and uneven turnout is a serious problem for local democracy. Fortunately, one simple reform — shifting the timing of local elections so they are held on the same day as national contests — can substantially increase participation. Considerable research shows that on-cycle November elections generally double local voter turnout compared to stand-alone local contests. But does higher turnout mean a more representative electorate? On that critical question, the evidence is slim and mixed. We combine information on election timing with detailed micro-targeting data that includes voter demographic information to examine how election timing influences voter composition in city elections. We find that moving to on-cycle elections in California leads to an electorate that is considerably more representative in terms of race, age, and partisanship — especially when these local elections coincide with a presidential election. Our results suggest that on-cycle elections can improve local democracy.

Keywords: Local elections, turnout, election timing, representation

JEL Classification: H70

Suggested Citation

Hajnal, Zoltan L. and Kogan, Vladimir and Markarian, George, Who Votes: City Election Timing and Voter Composition (July 16, 2021). American Political Science Review, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3888349

Zoltan L. Hajnal

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States
858-822-5015 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://polisci.ucsd.edu/faculty/hajnal.htm

Vladimir Kogan (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Columbus, OH 43210
United States

George Markarian

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

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