Low and uneven turnout is a serious problem for local democracy. However, simply moving off-cycle, local elections to be held on the same day as statewide and national contests doubles voter turnout and leads to an electorate that is considerably more representative in terms of race, age, class and partisanship, according to new University of California San Diego research.
Zoltan Hajnal, professor of political science at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, lead the study, which looked at all local elections held in California over an eight-year period. The findings could have major implications for state’s recall election on Sept. 14.
“What our results tell us is that the more unusual we make the timing of an election, the fewer people are going to turn out to vote and the more unrepresentative those votes are going to be,” Hajnal said. “With a recall election that is on an unexpected date, we are essentially making it more difficult for voters to participate. As a result, we might see lower turnout that is less representative of the California populace.”
He added that when local elections are not held on the first Tuesday of November with other statewide and national contests, it can create barriers because local voters need to learn the date of their local election, find their polling place and make a specific trip to the polls just to vote on local contests….