Electoral Verdicts: Incumbent Defeats in State Supreme Court Elections
American Politics Research, Vol. 33, pp. 818-841, November 2005
44 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2007
The election of judges has been an enduring, though controversial, institution. While there have been many popular accounts of how these elections are decided by factors irrelevant to a fair and impartial judiciary, recent scholarship has shown that electoral competition in races for the state high court bench can be understood in systematic ways. Yet, while we know the factors that can make races more or less competitive, we lack understanding of the factors that contribute to the electoral defeat of sitting justices. In this paper, I examine the determinants of electoral defeat for all incumbent state supreme court justices who ran for reelection between 1990-2000. Contrary to the arguments of those who claim that judicial elections are decided in a random, nonsystematic manner, I find that the probability of an incumbent being defeated is based on characteristics of the candidates, the state and electoral context, and institutional arrangements.
Keywords: judicial selection, state supreme courts, judicial elections, incumbency advantage
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