New Electorate Project

ABOUT THE NEW ELECTORATE PROJECT

This project aims to provide rigorous evidence to evaluate how recent voting reforms in California are reshaping the state’s electorate. In a series of studies, we ask how these reforms – including the Voter’s Choice Act, shifts in the timing of local elections, and changes in voter registration – impact both overall turnout rates and the extent to which California’s new electorate reflects and represents emerging demographic trends. We are conducting original academic research, but also summarizing our findings in research briefs tailored to policymakers, advocates, journalists, and interested members of the public. Our findings will be released to the public and available at newelectorateproject.org. Funded by the University of California’s Office of the President, this project brings together faculty members, graduate students and undergraduates at five UC campuses with collaborators at USC and the Public Policy Institute of California.

Recent Reports

May 1, 2019

In its first year of implementation, did the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) change turnout patterns in the counties – Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo – that adopted this new reform? How did this reform affect the turnout of groups of Californians – young voters, Latinos, and Asian Americans– who have often participated in elections at lower rates than others? We address these questions by gathering data on turnout rates, voter demographics, and electoral competition from 2002 through the primary and general elections of 2018, comparing trends in the adopting counties to the rest of the state.

December 16, 2019

2018 saw the implementation of the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) in the adopting counties of Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo. How did eligible voters experience the Voter’s Choice Act in its first election cycle? How satisfied were voters with casting their ballot? We address these questions by conducting a survey after the 2018 Primary Election of Californians eligible to vote, and comparing their perspectives in VCA counties with those voters from counties that did not adopt the VCA in 2018. This brief provides highlights from that analysis.

December 16, 2019

How do different types of political information affect citizens’ perceptions of the California Voter’s Choice Act? To address this question, we conducted a survey of over 5,000 Californians that asked them to read a brief description of the California Voter’s Choice Act and then express their views about it. Specifically, respondents were asked to express their level of support for the Act, as well as their perceptions of how easy or difficult it will be for Californians to vote under the new voting system.

December 16, 2019

In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Voter Participation Rights Act (SB 415) into law. As its title suggests, the bill aimed to increase turnout in local elections by forcing all California jurisdictions to hold elections concurrently with statewide elections (in June or November of even years). In this research brief, we ask what the advantages and limitations of on-cycle elections are particularly for low-propensity voters who are typically members of marginalized sub-populations.

December 16, 2019

Can racial and ethnic minorities be mobilized to participate in politics at greater rates? In particular, are mobilization messages that activate minorities’ identities or provide information about their group’s underrepresentation in government effective at increasing political participation? To examine how different types of group-based mobilization messages affect racial and ethnic minorities, we conducted a two- wave online panel survey with an embedded experiment during the 2018 general election.

December 16, 2019

This project gathers evidence about what policies and interventions can increase voting among Californians, especially Californians with a low propensity to vote. We have proceeded in two parts. First, in summer 2018, we surveyed a diverse sample of voting and non-voting Californians about their political attitudes. Based on analysis of this survey, we concluded that feeling inadequately informed and feeling inefficacious may contribute to low turnout rates. Second, based on the results of the survey, we designed an experiment to increase turnout in two special elections in June 2019 by targeting these feelings; analysis of the experimental results is still in progress.