Predicting Challengers in State Supreme Court Elections: Context and the Politics of Institutional Design

Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 56, pp. 337-349, September 2003

30 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2007

See all articles by Chris W. Bonneau

Chris W. Bonneau

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science

Melinda Gann Hall

Michigan State University - Department of Political Science

Abstract

In this paper, we answer two important questions about the role of challengers in elections to the states' highest courts: (1) under what conditions do incumbents draw challengers, and (2) do these same conditions influence whether the challengers entering these races have sufficient experience to pose a threat to the officeholders (i.e., are they quality challengers). While the factors related to each electoral contest and the forces characterizing the overall political climate of the state should affect the type of challenge, if any, we also expect institutions to matter. Specifically, factors governing the attractiveness of supreme court seats, as well as the formal means by which judicial elections are organized, all should serve to enhance or inhibit competition. In an analysis of all 146 partisan and nonpartisan elections to state supreme courts from 1988 through 1995, we find that competition from both inexperienced and experienced challengers is predictable from some basic information about the incumbents, the states, and the institutional context. Like legislators, judges can influence their chances of being challenged only to a limited degree. However, the states can increase or decrease competition to some extent by manipulating electoral system characteristics and a variety of factors that make supreme court seats more or less valuable. In fact, under certain scenarios, state supreme courts may be more democratic in character and function than is generally recognized or perhaps preferred.

Suggested Citation

Bonneau, Chris W. and Hall, Melinda Gann, Predicting Challengers in State Supreme Court Elections: Context and the Politics of Institutional Design. Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 56, pp. 337-349, September 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1012942

Chris W. Bonneau (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science ( email )

4600 Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.pitt.edu/~cwb7

Melinda Gann Hall

Michigan State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States
517-432-2380 (Phone)

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