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  • Author: Seth Hill, Thad Kousser, Gabriel Lenz, Mackenzie Lockhart, Elizabeth Mitchell
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: California Journal of Politics and Policy
  • Institution: Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Abstract: How can we increase voter turnout among low-propensity voters? Researchers and practitioners have found interventions that increase voter turnout, but these interventions tend to increase turnout among individuals already likely to vote, and therefore appear to exacerbate existing inequalities in participation. This project developed and tested an intervention designed to encourage people with a lower prior likelihood of voting into the electorate. First, in summer 2018, we surveyed a diverse sample of voting and non-voting Californians about their political attitudes. We concluded that feeling inadequately informed and feeling inefficacious may contribute to low turnout rates. Based on the results of the survey, we designed messages to address these feelings and tested them in an experiment to increase turnout in two special elections in June 2019 by targeting these sentiments among people with infrequent prior turnout records. Letters with information and encouragement about the voting process did not increase turnout in the subsequent election. We conclude that further work is needed to identify interventions that successfully increase turnout among low-propensity voters.
  • Topic: Elections, Voting, Participation, Turnout
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Eric McGhee, Mindy Romero, Laura Daly
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: California Journal of Politics and Policy
  • Institution: Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Abstract: In its first year of implementation, did the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) change turnout patterns in the counties – Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo – that adopted this new reform? How did this reform affect the turnout of groups of Californians – young voters, Latinos, and Asian Americans– who have often participated in elections at lower rates than others? We address these questions by gathering data on turnout rates, voter demographics, and electoral competition from 2002 through the primary and general elections of 2018, comparing trends in the adopting counties to the rest of the state.
  • Topic: Demographics, Reform, Elections, Diversity, Voting, Participation, Turnout
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Thad Kousser, Mindy Romero, Mackenzie Lockhart, Seth Hill, Jennifer Merolla
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: California Journal of Politics and Policy
  • Institution: Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Abstract: In April 2020, how did Californians of all demographic groups want to cast their ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic, what changes to the electoral process would they support during this critical moment, and how would reforms made in 2020 reshape our state’s electorate in the future? We address these questions by analyzing a statewide survey of a diverse sample of 12,276 eligible voters (adult citizens) conducted April 8-22, 2020. As a whole, California’s eligible voters plan to vote by mail more than ever before in November 2020. Voting by mail is the method that gives them the most confidence in the integrity of election results, and they are strongly supportive of policies that expand access to voting by mail. The level of support for voting by mail differs across California’s diverse racial and ethnic groups. Consistent with past studies, our survey found that Latino and African-American eligible voters are generally less likely to prefer this method of voting than non-Latino whites and Asian Americans. It will be important to consider the potentially disparate impacts that any election administration changes could bring and to conduct broad outreach efforts. When presented with scientific projections predicting a fall peak in the impact of COVID-19, eligible voters were even more likely to prefer voting by mail and to express concerns about waiting in line or working at a polling place that did not adhere to social distancing protocols. Specifying a set of social distancing guidelines for in-perso
  • Topic: Elections, Voting, Pandemic, Participation, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Cheryl Boudreau, Jennifer Merolla, Sono Shah
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: California Journal of Politics and Policy
  • Institution: Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Abstract: Can racial and ethnic minorities be mobilized to participate in politics at greater rates? We theorize that mobilization messages providing information about a group’s underrepresentation in government may increase participation among racial/ethnic minorities. However, responsiveness to such messages should vary depending on individuals’ prior awareness of their group’s underrepresentation. Using a two-wave panel survey that randomly assigned different get out the vote messages, we find that messages highlighting a racial/ethnic group’s underrepresentation in government do not increase Latinos’, Blacks’, or Asians’ likelihood of voting. We also find that such messages can decrease other forms of political participation among Asians and Latinos who were previously unaware of their group’s underrepresentation. These findings indicate that information about underrepresentation can actually demobilize certain segments of the electorate. Thus, practical efforts to boost participation among underrepresented groups should either communicate information about underrepresentation in other ways or provide a different type of message altogether.
  • Topic: Minorities, Elections, Diversity, Voting, Participation, Mobilization, Turnout
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Thad Kousser, Mindy Romero, Mackenzie Lockhart, Seth Hill, Jennifer Merolla
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: California Journal of Politics and Policy
  • Institution: Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Abstract: In April, 2020, was there a partisan divide between eligible voters from California’s major parties over whether they preferred to vote in person or through mail ballots in the November election, and what percentage of likely voters from each party said they would not vote if the election were held exclusively through the mail? Did partisans divide over policy proposals about how to conduct this election? We investigate these questions by analyzing a statewide survey of a diverse sample of 12,276 eligible voters conducted April 8-22, 2020. When we asked eligible voters how they wanted to cast their ballots this November, we found no significant divide between the Republican and Democratic eligible voters. More than half of eligible voters in both parties prefer to cast a ballot by mail, with nearly another two in ten voters preferring to drop off a ballot that has been sent to them in the mail. Gaps of eight to twelve percentage points emerge between partisans over support for policies that advance voting by mail, though there is still a strong consensus supporting these changes among all partisan affiliations.
  • Topic: Elections, Voting, Public Health, Pandemic, Participation, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jonathan Collins, Eddie Lucero, Jessica Trounstine
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: California Journal of Politics and Policy
  • Institution: Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Abstract: In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Voter Participation Rights Act (SB 415) into law. As its title suggests, the bill aimed to increase turnout in local elections by forcing all California jurisdictions to hold elections concurrently with statewide elections (in June or November of even years). Turnout in local elections is significantly lower than national turnout, averaging only 20% by some estimates (Alford and Lee 1968, Wood 2002, Hajnal and Lewis 2003, Caren 2007, Hajnal 2009). Scholars have found that election timing is the most important predictor of differences in aggregate turnout rates across cities (Alford and Lee 1968, Anzia 2014, Anzia 2011, Hajnal and Trounstine 2005). Hajnal and Lewis find that city elections that coincide with presidential elections are associated with a turnout of registered voters 36 percentage points higher than turnout in cities that do not hold elections that coincide with the presidential election (2001, 656). Caren finds that cities holding elections concurrent with the presidential election increase voter turnout by 27% compared to cities that do not (2007, 41). The logic behind SB 415 is that moving local elections to coincide with national elections will improve electoral participation.
  • Topic: Elections, Voting, Participation, Turnout
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mindy Romero, Jennifer Puza
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: California Journal of Politics and Policy
  • Institution: Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Abstract: In 2014, California passed the Ballot Initiative Transparency Act (SB 1253, or BITA) which provided some of the biggest changes to California’s ballot initiative process in recent decades. BITA went into effect for the first time during the 2016 election cycle and was designed to provide more opportunities for legislative compromise and to allow for more public involvement in the ballot initiative process. Our study examines BITA and its impact on the ballot initiative process. Specifically, we sought to understand the extent of BITA’s impact on influencing the state legislature and the initiative proponents to seek legislative compromise. Furthermore, we examine the implementation of the new mechanisms BITA put in place and offer suggestions for how to potentially improve their effectiveness for future elections.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, Legislation, Voting
  • Political Geography: United States, California
  • Author: Brian Adams
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: California Journal of Politics and Policy
  • Institution: Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Abstract: Research on federal, state and big-city elections has concluded that campaign spending is a necessary but not sufficient condition for electoral success: even though the best financed candidates do not always win, aspirants for office need to raise and spend funds to mount competitive campaigns. But scholars have not explored whether this pattern holds in small to mid-sized cities. Money influences elections in all jurisdictions, but it is plausible that as cities get smaller campaign finance dynamics change. In this paper I explore whether campaign finance dynamics are different in small and mid-sized cities, using a dataset of 61 California cities. Despite reason to think that they will vary, I find that campaign finance patterns are similar across cities of various sizes. Few city council candidates are able to mount credible campaigns without money, even in small cities. Incumbents enjoy high re-election rates across all cities, and levels of competition may even decrease with constituency size.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, Domestic politics, Money
  • Political Geography: United States, California
  • Author: Jason McDaniel
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: California Journal of Politics and Policy
  • Institution: Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Abstract: Politics in American cities is largely driven by racial group cleavages, and voting in urban elections is polarized along racial lines. Several cities have implemented a relatively new reform to urban elections called ranked-choice voting (RCV), which eliminates the plurality run-off election by giving voters the option to rank-order several vote preferences. This article examines whether the expanded preference choices associated with ranked-choice voting reduce the level of racially polarized voting in mayoral elections. In the first stage of analysis, precinct-level election results from Oakland, CA, and San Francisco, CA, are used to explore variation in racially polarized voting before and after the implementation of RCV. The second stage of analysis uses a difference-in-differences design to analyze racially polarized voting in RCV cities compared to non-RCV cities. The results indicate that racially polarized voting did not decrease due to the implementation of RCV. Rather, the results show that RCV contributed to higher levels of racially polarized voting between white and Asian voters.
  • Topic: Politics, Governance, Elections, Local
  • Political Geography: United States, California
  • Author: Sara Sadhwani, Matthew Mendez
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: California Journal of Politics and Policy
  • Institution: Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Abstract: The adoption of the top two primary system in California is resulting in a rising number of general elections in which candidates from the same party compete. Incidentally, California is also home to a large and diverse Latino community. When party identification is no longer a reliable cue, do Latino voters turn to the race or ethnicity of a candidate in selecting whom to support? We examine co-partisan Republican general elections in California’s state assembly from 2012‒2016. Using surname-matched precinct-level voter data, we conduct ecological inference analysis to estimate support for candidates based on the ethnicity of voters. Taking the case of Latino voters, we find a strong level of support for Latino Republican candidates, suggesting that a candidate’s ethnicity may inform voters’ strategic decision making in partisan elections.
  • Topic: Politics, Elections, Voting
  • Political Geography: United States, California