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Report · March 2002

Municipal Elections in California: Turnout, Timing, and Competition

Paul Lewis, Zoltan L. Hajnal, and Hugh Louch

Low voter turnout for municipal elections in California has raised concerns about declining civic participation and its potential consequences.  This study documents voter turnout in California’s municipal elections and investigates the causes of turnout differences.  To assess the political vibrancy of municipal elections, it also examines the degree of competition for and turnover in municipal offices.  Using data from a questionnaire completed by 350 city clerks in California, the authors calculate that less than half of all registered voters living in cities cast ballots in the most recent municipal elections.  However, they also note that overall turnout in city elections could be increased substantially by rescheduling more of them to coincide with state and national contests.


Political Landscape