Race, Roll-Off, and the Straight-Ticket Option



Analyzing data from three Deep South states, this paper examines roll-off for lower-level offices and for referenda proposing repeal of nearly identical state prohibitions against interracial marriage. Applying Ecological Inference, the paper concludes that contrary to the findings of others, African-American roll-off was markedly higher than white roll-off even on the interracial marriage referenda; that roll-off for both groups was lower on the interracial marriage referenda than on other referenda; and that as expected, black roll-off exceeded white roll-off for election to lower-level offices. The latter finding, however, held only when the straight-ticket option was not available. When that option was available, African-American voters were less likely than white voters to roll-off for lower-level offices because they were found to make a much greater use of the option. The black–white roll-off gap was shown to dramatically affect the racial composition of the effective electorate when referenda and lower-level offices were at issue.