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When scholars, judges, and politicians talk about federalism, they frequently praise the qualities of state and local democracy. State and local governments, it is said, are closer to the people, promote more innovation, and produce outputs that are a better fit for the diverse set of preferences that exist in a large nation. But these stories about state democracy rarely wrestle with the reality of elections for, say, state senator and city council. Voters frequently know little about the identity or performance of officials in these offices or about political parties at the state and local levels. Voting in state and local elections is frequently "second order, " reflecting voter preferences about the President and Congress with little or no variation based on the performance or promises of state officeholders and candidates. State and local elections vary in the degree to which they are second order-chief executive races seem to be less second order than legislative ones, and elections were less second order in the 1970s and 1980s than they are today-but we see second-order voting behavior quite consistently across many state and local elections.
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