local politics

Can States Promote Minority Representation? Assessing the Effects of the California Voting Rights Act

July 22, 2021 // 0 Comments

By Loren Collingwood (University of California, Riverside) and Sean Long (University of California, Riverside) | California passed its own version of the Voting Rights Act (CVRA) in 2001, aiming to diversify local elected offices. At the time, 449 of California’s 476 cities employed at-large districts to elect candidates to the city council. The CVRA compels at-large cities to transition their city council elections to a by-district basis if plaintiffs can demonstrate the presence of racially polarized voting (i.e., Latinos preferring one candidate, and Whites/Anglos another). Read More

Avoiding Punishment? Electoral Accountability for Local Fee Increases

February 9, 2021 // 0 Comments

By Katy Hansen (Duke University), Shadi Eskaf (UNC-Chapel Hill), and Megan Mullin (Duke University) | Many elected officials expect to be punished at the ballot box for increasing taxes and fees. At a recent city council meeting in Westminster, Colorado, one council member acknowledged potential retaliation for supporting a 10% water rate increase, telling a constituent, “I have to do what I think is best for the long term health of my city […] and if it costs me my job on council […], that is a consequence I’m willing to pay.” Both scholars and policy practitioners consider the fear of electoral punishment to be an important explanation for local decision making about public services. Read More

Neighborhoods and Felony Disenfranchisement: The Case of New York City

December 21, 2020 // 0 Comments

By Kevin Morris (NYU) | Many of the negative effects of mass incarceration on neighborhoods have been well documented by scholars in recent years. The incarceration of community members has been shown to cause negative health outcomes, to disrupt labor markets, and to make residents less trustful of their local government. Residents who live in neighborhoods touched by mass incarceration exhibit symptoms of trauma and are more likely to suffer from anxiety than others. One aspect of incarceration’s effects on neighborhoods, however, remains less studied: felony disenfranchisement, or the suspension of voting rights. Nearly everywhere in the United States, the political rights of individuals convicted of felony offenses are severely curtailed. This project shows that the disenfranchisement of community members has serious impacts on neighborhood turnout in local elections. Read More

Culture Wars and City Politics, Revisited: Local Councils and the Australia Day Controversy

August 5, 2020 // 0 Comments

By Rachel Busbridge (Australian Catholic University) and Mark Chou (Australian Catholic University) | The so-called ‘culture wars’ – conflicts between progressives and conservatives over morality, values and identity – are often considered purely national in scope. When James Davison Hunter first popularized the concept in the early 1990s, he had in mind a clear vision of an all-encompassing conflict between the forces of orthodoxy and progressivism over the ‘meaning of America’. Yet the fiercest manifestations of culture war conflicts very often occur in localities, turning ostensibly national debates into issues that cities and towns have to deal with. Indeed, recent events – the murder of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter protests, the COVID-19 pandemic – have only served to underscore the increasingly localized dimensions of culture war skirmishes and the challenges they present for local and municipal governance. Read More