Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science


Political Science

First Advisor

Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz


In this paper, the question of whether there is a difference in voter participation between partisan and nonpartisan ballots in municipal elections is addressed. This study will employ statistical regression to isolate and measure voter turnout in these two scenarios. Reforms which began in the late nineteenth century continue to have an impact on our daily lives. The Progressive Era, which championed much social equality for our country, has an oft overlooked darker side whose influences and consequences remain. Specifically, the municipal reforms of the early twentieth century. Much of the research on the topic of municipal elections has included nonpartisan ballots, as they are included in what are known as reform cities along with manager governments and at-large elections, to name a few. Research on nonpartisan elections and turnout has yielded support for the notion that the implementation of municipal reform has served to depress civic participation. However, there is not yet a study looking solely at these variables.

The research design for this study is non-experimental. A random effects generalized least squares regression with robust standard error adjusted for clustering of municipalities over time was employed to test for an effect on voter turnout based on the type of municipal ballot, partisan or non-partisan. The dependent variable is voter turnout and is a quantitative variable. The independent variable is a categorical qualitative variable which is defined by the presence or absent of party label on municipal ballots. This paper addressed this deficit using Rhode Island as a case study, as nine of the 39 municipalities are nonpartisan. Comparing turnout over five elections, the results of this study will hopefully provide strong evidence about the impact of nonpartisan ballots in local elections and aid in the overall discussion.