Toward a Theory of Local Elections: Building a Theoretical Framework by Analyzing School Bond Elections




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Despite the substantial impact of local government on individuals’ daily lives, very little research exists regarding a theory of local government elections. Building upon the work of Kaufmann (2004) and Oliver (2012), this study aims to help fill this void by examining three key concepts for any theory of local elections: retrospective voting, intergroup competition, and political context. These concepts are analyzed using local school bond election outcomes. Specifically, the dissertation examines school bond elections held in the State of Texas between 1994 and 2012. Using accountability ratings, the racial distance between voters and students in a school district, and the electoral structure of school boards in districts pursuing bond elections, the analysis shows that retrospective voting, intergroup competition, and political context are important concepts to include in a theory of local elections. Further, the study offers three additional insights. First, gatekeepers serve an important function in elections, like school bond elections, that require the actions of an elected body to be placed on the ballot. Second, in keeping with previous studies, it appears that voters in local elections are quite knowledgeable of the issues on which they are voting. Finally, the results of this study indicate that voters may be evolving in the way they approach local elections, particularly regarding intergroup competition.



Local elections, School bonds, Voting research, Policy sciences, Intergroup relations, School elections


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