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While the determining factors leading to the dismally low levels of voter turnout in national and statewide elections have been well studied, nowhere is turnout lower than in local elections, a particular area that is significantly understudied. Of the limited literature on local and mayoral elections, few examine cities below 250,000 in population. Rather, many examine mega-city elections, which are comparable to congressional or statewide elections. Utilizing an original dataset of 356 midsized (50,000-250,000 in population) American cities from the Midwest, South, and Northeast, this study examines the drivers of mayoral election turnout: election day circumstances, stakes in the game socioeconomic factors, and race. The primary findings are that election day circumstances, especially the timing of the elections, perform best across all models tested, with the stakes in the game variables also being significant. Additionally, these first two measures drive turnout far more than any social, economic, or racial composition of a city’s population.


Political Science