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Journal Article

Teams without Uniforms: The Nonpartisan Ballot in State and Local Elections

Brian F. Schaffner, Matthew Streb and Gerald Wright
Political Research Quarterly
Vol. 54, No. 1 (Mar., 2001), pp. 7-30
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the University of Utah
DOI: 10.2307/449205
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/449205
Page Count: 24
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Teams without Uniforms: The Nonpartisan Ballot in State and Local Elections
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Abstract

The use of a nonpartisan ballot was one of the many Progressive reforms introduced around the turn of the century that is still heavily used today. The intent of the change to a nonpartisan format was, and still is, to remove party cues from a voter's decision, thereby causing the voter to seek out other information about a candidate. This study seeks to examine the effects of nonpartisan elections on patterns of voter decisionmaking. We examine the structure of electoral choice in partisan and nonpartisan elections at the state and local levels using paired comparisons and interrupted time series. Using precinct and district level voting data, we compare mayoral races in the sister cities of Champaign and Urbana (IL) and state legislative elections in Nebraska and Kansas. In addition, we examine the city of Asheville (NC) during its change from partisan to nonpartisan elections in the early 1990s and state legislative elections in Minnesota during its change from nonpartisan to partisan contests in the early 1970s. The analysis of these cases helps us to understand the effects of removing party identification from the ballot. We find that nonpartisanship depresses turnout and that in nonpartisan contests voters rely less on party and more on incumbency in their voting decisions. The nonpartisan ballot "works," but how one evaluates the results depends on one's view of the electorate and the purpose of elections.

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