provideamoresystematicaccountofthefactorsthatinfluenceturnoutlevelsin local elections, looking in particular for turnout-dampening factors thatmight be subject to change through policy. Therefore, in contrast to the vastmajority of research on voting behavior, which has focused on individualdemographiccharacteristics(suchasrace,education,andage)orthelevelof competition in a particular election (factors such as the margin of victory,campaign mobilization, and campaign spending), we focus our attention onlocal electoral and governing institutions.
ARE INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTSLINKED TO VOTER PARTICIPATION?
We focus on local institutions for two reasons. First, from a practicalstandpoint, electoral institutions can be altered. Although examining demo-graphic characteristics and the level of competition may help us to under-standwhypeoplevote,studiesthatfocusonthesetwofactorsgenerallyofferlittleadvicetothoseinterestedinaddressingtheproblemoflowturnout.Forexample,knowingthatincomeincreasesthepropensitytovoteisnotable,butthatknowledgeleadstofewrealpolicysolutionstononparticipation.Bycon-trast, municipalities generally have the ability to alter their own institutionalstructure and can in many cases reform the way they conduct elections bypassing an ordinance or altering a city charter. Moreover, changes in theseinstitutions and electoral laws are not unprecedented, as municipalities haveengaged in numerous rounds of structural reform (Bridges 1997; Welch andBledsoe1988).Thus,iflocalinstitutionscanbeshowntoaffectturnout,theyoffer a viable policy lever to increase participation in local elections.Asecondandequallyimportantreasontofocusonelectoralinstitutionsistheongoingperceptionthattheyareaprimary—ifnottheprimary—determi-nant of voter participation at the local level.
For decades, scholars of urbanpolitics have suggested that a particular set of local institutions associatedwith the urban reform movement has served to dramatically reduce voterturnout.Twoinstitutionsinparticular—thecitymanagerformofgovernmentand nonpartisan elections—have been viewed as critical determinants of local turnout. In the first case, scholars have argued that by weakening thepowers of the mayor and shifting more power into the hands of an unelectedcitymanager,thisstructuralchangemayhavereducedthedirectinfluenceof votersanddecreasedtheincentiveforlocalresidentstovote(AlfordandLee1968; Karnig and Walter 1983; Bridges 1997). In the case of nonpartisanelections, the theory is that mobilization efforts on the behalf of parties willdecline and turnout will fall as a result (Karnig and Walter 1983; Schaffner,
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