Switch: A Case Study of Voter Turnout following Electoral Change in a School Board Election

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Virginia Tech


This paper attempts to shed light into the realm of school boards, a frequently overlooked topic in political science literature. This study examines the relationship between a school board electoral structure and voter turnout levels. In particular, the author hypothesizes that ward-based elections due to their inherent smallness have higher voter turnout levels than at-large elections. In crafting such a relationship a mixed-method approach was used combining elements found in case studies with an intervention analysis. The paper describes voter turnout levels from 1989 to 2007 for a single, medium-sized school district in Illinois that had switched its style of elections from at-large to ward. It was found that following the switch to ward elections turnout actually decreased. However, the results were not statistically significant. The variable of competitiveness was also tested as it was thought that the more competitive elections were the more voter turnout increases. Here again, the author found no relationship between competitiveness and the election structure in ward and at-large elections. In concluding, the author states that some unseen intervening variable such as information costs may be influencing the relationship and significance between voter turnout and election structure.



Voter Turnout, School Boards, School Board Elections, Ward Elections, At-large Elections