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The purpose of this prospectus is to examine county-level contextual factors that impact direct democracy mechanisms and voter turnout. The prospectus contains two essays that build upon each other with fitting theoretical frameworks. The first essay investigates the impact of contextual factors on a county government’s decision to permit citizen initiatives. This essay applies new institutionalism theory to understand the current connections between government structure and direct democracy mechanisms within U.S. counties. County governments play a vital role in American democracy, yet little is known about why some counties permit direct democracy mechanisms while others do not. I address a gap in the literature that focuses on policy outcomes that can vary at the county-level due to election laws. Election laws that permit direct democracy mechanisms often benefit voters by initiating or repealing legislation that more closely reflects the citizenry. Given the dearth of research on direct democracy mechanisms at the county-level, I examine the 1) citizen initiative, 2) legislative referendum, 3) popular referendum, and 4) provision for recall. To investigate counties that permit direct democracy mechanisms, I focus on contextual factors that include form of government, socioeconomics, and demographics. I apply a series of cross-sectional logit regressions by using micro-level county data from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) 2014 County Government Survey, American Community Survey (ACS), U.S. Census Bureau, and CDFI fund. Subsequently, I use the models to detect and explain variations of direct democracy that exist in the 3,031 county governments surveyed with populations between 10,000 and 500,000.

Publication Date



9th Annual GCUA Graduate Research Symposium




Las Vegas (Nev.)


America; American democracy


Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration

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594 KB


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The Connections Between Government Structure and Direct Democracy