Invisible partisanship: A study of partisan bias in nonpartisan elections and its impact on local policies in California
The purpose of this study is to investigate whether or not nonpartisan election systems favor one political party over other partisan groups. In addition, the study investigates the implications of this partisan bias for local urban and school policies. The data are taken from 275 cities and 262 school districts, including Los Angeles and San Francisco and their school districts, in nine counties of southern and northern California.
The analysis demonstrates that nonpartisan elections are biased toward those who affiliated with the Republican party. Republicans are over-represented at the levels of candidacy and outcome as compared to their share over total registered voters. As a result, the extent of Republican control of city councils and school districts is also greater than the degree of their representation in registered voters. Besides, the study centers on the source of this Republican advantage. The nonpartisan electoral scheme itself seems to be at the center of this advantage, as it removes partisan cues from the ballot and diminishes the level of overall voter interest in the elections. In general, Republican advantage appears to have little to do with their personal attributes, endorsement, policy stance, or campaign spending.
The present study also demonstrates that this Republican electoral advantage is to be taken seriously in the discussion of local public policies. The nonpartisan election scheme that disproportionately helps Republicans win local legislative contests tends to shape city councils and school boards to produce conservative and pro-developmental local policies, as it places more Republicans with such political beliefs and policy preferences in local legislative offices.
0514: School administration