CHANGES IN CITY ELECTIONS AFTER A SWITCH IN FORM OF GOVERNMENT

Open Access
Author:
Gardner, James Michael
Area of Honors:
Political Science
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Michael Barth Berkman, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael Barth Berkman, Honors Advisor
  • Gretchen G Casper, Faculty Reader
Keywords:
  • City Government
  • Form of City Government
  • Local Elections
  • Voter Turnout
Abstract:
Elections at the municipal level historically have the lowest levels of voter turnout in America. Citizen participation in local and specifically city elections is critical because city governments have the greatest impact on the daily lives of citizens. This participation varies by the type of city government. In this research I look at what happens to elections when city governments change from one type of government to another. Most extant research into the relationship between government type and election or participation has been cross-sectional and restricted to voter turnout. I look more comprehensively at how changes in city government form do or do not change elections. I use newspaper articles about elections over multiple years along with voter turnout data from eight medium-sized cities that changed their form of government from 1993 to the present. I explore variables such as attention to the candidate, attention to issues, election competitiveness, policy types, focus of the office and voter turnout. Aside from voter turnout, my findings do not indicate clear patterns that allow a change in form of government to predict changes in elections. However, my findings suggest that switching to a mayor-council form increases voter turnout. In addition, my findings also confirm previous research that switching to a council-manager system decreases voter turnout. This conclusion has the utmost significance because cities are increasingly adopting the council-manager system despite its impediment to the cornerstone of citizen participation in government.