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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The California Journal of Politics and Policy (CJPP) is an online journal of original scholarship, focusing on state and local politics, public policy formation and implementation, especially in the Golden State.


Campaigning in Lilliput: Money’s Influence in Small and Mid-Sized City Elections

Research on federal, state and big-city elections has concluded that campaign spending is a necessary but not sufficient condition for electoral success: even though the best financed candidates do not always win, aspirants for office need to raise and spend funds to mount competitive campaigns. But scholars have not explored whether this pattern holds in small to mid-sized cities. Money influences elections in all jurisdictions, but it is plausible that as cities get smaller campaign finance dynamics change. In this paper I explore whether campaign finance dynamics are different in small and mid-sized cities, using a dataset of 61 California cities. Despite reason to think that they will vary, I find that campaign finance patterns are similar across cities of various sizes. Few city council candidates are able to mount credible campaigns without money, even in small cities. Incumbents enjoy high re-election rates across all cities, and levels of competition may even decrease with constituency size.

Does More Choice Lead to Reduced Racially Polarized Voting? Assessing the Impact of Ranked-Choice Voting in Mayoral Elections

Politics in American cities is largely driven by racial group cleavages, and voting in urban elections is polarized along racial lines. Several cities have implemented a relatively new reform to urban elections called ranked-choice voting (RCV), which eliminates the plurality run-off election by giving voters the option to rank-order several vote preferences. This article examines whether the expanded preference choices associated with ranked-choice voting reduce the level of racially polarized voting in mayoral elections. In the first stage of analysis, precinct-level election results from Oakland, CA, and San Francisco, CA, are used to explore variation in racially polarized voting before and after the implementation of RCV. The second stage of analysis uses a difference-in-differences design to analyze racially polarized voting in RCV cities compared to non-RCV cities. The results indicate that racially polarized voting did not decrease due to the implementation of RCV. Rather, the results show that RCV contributed to higher levels of racially polarized voting between white and Asian voters.

Candidate Ethnicity and Latino Voting in Co-Partisan Elections

The adoption of the top two primary system in California is resulting in a rising number of general elections in which candidates from the same party compete. Incidentally, California is also home to a large and diverse Latino community. When party identification is no longer a reliable cue, do Latino voters turn to the race or ethnicity of a candidate in selecting whom to support? We examine co-partisan Republican general elections in California’s state assembly from 2012‒2016. Using surname-matched precinct-level voter data, we conduct ecological inference analysis to estimate support for candidates based on the ethnicity of voters. Taking the case of Latino voters, we find a strong level of support for Latino Republican candidates, suggesting that a candidate’s ethnicity may inform voters’ strategic decision making in partisan elections.


The California Voting Rights Act and Local Governments

On July 9, 2002, Governor Gray Davis signed the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) into law. The intent of the CVRA was to build upon the voting rights protections embodied in the Federal Voting Rights Act (FVRA) by enhancing the influence of minority populations in local government elections. The CVRA has led to multiple legal challenges of at-large electoral systems in dozens of governments in California. This paper explores the impacts of the CVRA on local governments as well as potential impacts of recent changes to the CVRA.