Municipal institutions and voter turnout in local elections

Zoltan L. Hajnal, Paul G. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


Although low voter turnout in national elections has garnered considerable attention and concern, much lower turnout in municipal elections has often been largely ignored. Using a survey of cities in California, this article examines a series of institutional remedies to low turnout in mayoral and city council elections. Moving local elections to coincide with the dates of national elections would have by far the largest impact on voter turnout, but other institutional changes that tend to raise the stakes of local elections also increase turnout. Specifically, less outsourcing of city services, the use of direct democracy, and more control in the hands of elected rather than appointed officials all tend to increase turnout.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-668
Number of pages24
JournalUrban Affairs Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Concurrent elections
  • Institutions
  • Turnout
  • Urban politics
  • Voting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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