Roll-Off in State Court Elections: Change Over Time and the Impact of the Straight-Ticket Voting Option
29 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 1, 2015
Roll-off refers to voters who turn out for an election, cast votes for offices at the top of the ballot, but then do not cast votes in down-ballot contests, typically for less visible offices such as judgeships and local government positions. It is commonly thought that participation in judicial elections declines as one moves from partisan elections to nonpartisan elections to retention elections. This paper considers two questions regarding roll-off in state court elections. First, focusing on state supreme court elections between 1946 and 2014, the paper examines whether the pattern of roll-off has changed over that time, and whether the factors affecting roll-off have changed. An important feature of the analysis is the inclusion of an indicator of whether a straight-ticket voting option (STVO) is provided on the ballot, and if so whether that option includes judicial offices, a factor largely ignored — there are some important exceptions — in previous studies of roll-off. The analysis reveals the importance to taking into account STVO, and show that there have been important changes and variations in roll-off over time.
The second question examined is the paper is whether STVO has similar influences in state supreme court elections, intermediate appellate elections, and local court elections. The results of this part of the analysis show that while the hypothesized effects of STVO do generally exist in state supreme court elections, those effects do not show up in elections for courts below the state supreme court level. Exactly why this inconsistency exists is not clear.
Keywords: judicial selection, judicial elections
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