Objectives. A number of recent studies find that direct democracy increases voter turnout. In this article, we ask: Who does direct democracy mobilize to vote and how are they mobilized? We distinguish between long-term and short-term effects on voter turnout, noting that much of the current literature has focused on participatory theory.
Methods. Our research design harnesses the power of geographic information systems and examines turnout in special initiative-only elections using registered voter lists. Our model draws on individual and Census tract data, incorporated using a hierarchical generalized linear model.
Results. The findings demonstrate how partisan context mitigates the potential for direct democracy to mobilize from the middle, and clarifies the dominance of short-term as opposed to long-term effects in increasing voter participation in ballot initiative elections.
Conclusion. Mobilization via direct legislation occurs mostly because voters are actively mobilized by partisan campaigns, not because of an increase in participatory fervor.