Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

The Journal of Politics


Department of Government


Numerous studies show that the rate at which African‐Americans cast ballots with missing or invalid votes, i.e., the African‐American residual vote rate, is higher than the corresponding white rate. While existing literature argues that the plethora of African‐American residual votes is caused by administrative problems or socioeconomic factors, we show using precinct‐level data from two recent elections in Cook County, Illinois, that the African‐American residual vote rate in electoral contests with black candidates is less than half the rate in contests without black candidates. African Americans, therefore, are able to reduce their residual vote rate when they wish to do so. We present complementary findings for white voters, whose residual vote rate often substantially increases in contests which feature dominant black candidates.