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Journal Article

Gender, Ethnicity, and Ballot Information: Ballot Cues in Low-Information Elections

Marsha Matson and Terri Susan Fine
State Politics & Policy Quarterly
Vol. 6, No. 1 (SPRING 2006), pp. 49-72
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41289378
Page Count: 24
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Gender, Ethnicity, and Ballot Information: Ballot Cues in Low-Information Elections
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Abstract

In November 1996, voters cast ballots for candidates running for 57 seats on 15 community advising and zoning boards in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Voters had little knowledge about the candidates or the boards that had been created only a few months earlier. The candidates campaigned for seven weeks. The local media generally ignored them. There were no incumbents and no party labels in the nonpartisan contests. In low-information local elections such as these, voter cues and ballot design plays a decisive role in voter choice. The cues in this election were candidates' gender, ethnicity, campaign expenditures, and ballot position. Our results indicate that the most important cue was candidate gender; however, voters used ethnicity to decide whether they voted for men or women. The number of candidates on the ballot impacted vote share, while ballot position played no significant role. Those candidates who spent the most campaign money were also preferred. We argue that vote cues provide a means to address voter fatigue, where gender, ethnicity, and name recognition provide cues in this low-information, high voter fatigue situation. Our results suggest that by spending greater on their campaigns, Hispanic women— the most disadvantaged of the candidates—could run competitively against Hispanic men.

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