The Study of Local Elections

Editors' Introduction: A Looking Glass into the Future

Melissa Marschalla1, Paru Shaha2 and Anirudh Ruhila3

a1 Rice University

a2 Macalester College

a3 Ohio University

Given the large number of cases and considerable institutional and contextual variation across and within local governments, one might assume that the study of local elections is an area already well harvested by political scientists. The truth, however, is that this area of inquiry is relatively unexplored. In fact, to say that a field of study on local elections exists would be a bit of an overstatement. Not only is the literature rather small and not particularly cohesive, but the data collection and methods of analysis are also somewhat primitive, particularly compared to research on state and federal elections. While, on the one hand, this lack of subfield development means that there are many unanswered and even unexplored questions, on the other hand, it means that the possibilities for future research are practically limitless.

(Online publication January 14 2011)

Melissa Marschall is an associate professor of political science at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Her research interests include immigrant and minority incorporation, urban politics, education policy, race and representation, and political behavior. She can be reached at

Paru Shah is an assistant professor of political science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. She received her Ph.D. in political science from Rice University. Her research areas include urban politics, education policy, race and ethnic politics, and research methods. She can be reached at

Anirudh Ruhil is an associate professor at the Voinovich School of Leadership & Public Affairs at Ohio University. His work spans urban politics (with an emphasis on race and representation), public health research on survey-based incidence and prevalence rates, K–12 educational research (value-added analysis for accountability and school improvement purposes), and college access and retention in rural America. He can be reached at