When the Personal Vote Is Not Enough: The Failure of Charter Reform in Columbia, South Carolina

Authors

  • Christopher A. Cooper Western Carolina University
  • H. Gibbs Knotts College of Charleston
  • H. James Bourne College of Charleston

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.20899/jpna.4.3.251-264

Keywords:

Charter Reform, Local Government, Government Structure

Abstract

The choice of city structure is one of the most important choices that citizens and elected representatives face in local government. While we know a good deal about the macro-level trends in a city structure, we know comparatively less about why residents in individual cities may opt for one structure or another. In this paper, we focus on the unsuccessful 2013 single-issue referendum in Columbia, South Carolina, addressing why, despite support from key players, the city chose not to adopt a strong-mayor form of government. Using precinct-level data, we find support for the personal vote hypothesis. We discover that support for the sitting mayor is a significant predictor of support for reform, although the lack of voter mobilization city-wide may be too much of a factor for reform advocates to overcome. This investigation leads us to a number of conclusions that are relevant for both academics and practitioners who want to understand structural change in local government. 

Author Biographies

Christopher A. Cooper, Western Carolina University

Christopher A. Cooper is Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University. His research has appeared in a variety of journals including Public Administration Review, American Review of Public Administration, Administration and Society, Policy Studies Journal, and State Politics and Policy Quarterly.

H. Gibbs Knotts, College of Charleston

H. Gibbs Knottsis Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the College of Charleston. His research has appeared in a variety of journals, including the Journal of Politics, Public Administration Review, American Review of Public Administration, Social Science Quarterly, and Political Science Quarterly.

H. James Bourne, College of Charleston

H. James Bourne received his Bachelor of science (B.S.) in business administration at Winthrop University and his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) at the College of Charleston.    

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Published

2018-12-01

Issue

Section

Research Articles