Paul noted in his blog yesterday the issues associated with “nonpartisan” elections. As he noted, there is a small but important research literature on nonpartisan elections and the role that names play in such elections. The problem with nonpartisan races is that voters need information regarding how to vote. Given that many nonpartisan races are for low information races–like judges–voters turn to other cues to figure out how to vote. Two cues that you can get from a name easily are gender and potentially ethnicity. Studies show that these cues make a difference in how people vote.
Here in Salt Lake City, elections for mayor are nonpartisan but the leading candidate is putting her party affiliation on all of her election materials because she views this as being a very important cue to voters about what she stands for. We often think voters need a lot of information to make voting decisions. Never underestimate the importance of a single letter! (D v. R).