Although there is a widespread belief that uneven voter turnout leads to biased outcomes in American democracy, existing empirical tests have found few effects. By offering a systematic account of how and where turnout matters in local politics, this book challenges much of what we know about turnout in America today. It demonstrates that low and uneven turnout, a factor at play in most American cities, leads to sub-optimal outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities. Low turnout results in losses in mayoral elections, less equitable racial and ethnic representation on city councils, and skewed spending policies. The importance of turnout confirms long held suspicions about the under-representation of minorities and raises normative concerns about local democracy. Fortunately, this book offers a solution. Analysis of local participation indicates that a small change to local election timing - a reform that is cost effective and relatively easy to enact - could dramatically expand local voter turnout.
Dr Zoltan Hajnal is currently Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Changing White Attitudes Toward Black Leadership (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and his articles have appeared in the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, and numerous other journals, edited volumes, and newspaper editorial pages. He was also the winner of the Best Paper in Urban Politics Award at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.
Introduction: the vote and democracy; 1. Where turnout should matter; 2. Turnout could matter at the local level; 3. Winners and losers in mayoral elections; 4. Turnout and representation on city councils; 5. Turnout and local government spending priorities; 6. Raising voter turnout; 7. The benefits of expanded participation; Appendix.