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Voters' Verdicts

Voters' Verdicts: Citizens, Campaigns, and Institutions in State Supreme Court Elections

Chris W. Bonneau
Damon M. Cann
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15hvzft
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  • Book Info
    Voters' Verdicts
    Book Description:

    InVoters' Verdicts,Chris Bonneau and Damon Cann address contemporary concerns with judicial elections by investigating factors that influence voters' decisions in the election of state supreme court judges. Bonneau and Cann demonstrate that the move to nonpartisan elections, while it depresses political participation, does little to mute the effects of partisanship and ideology. The authors note the irony that judicial elections, often faulted for politicizing the legal process, historically represented an attempt to correct the lack of accountability in the selection of judges by appointment, since unlike appointive systems, judicial elections are at least transparent.

    This comprehensive study rests on a broad evidentiary base that spans numerous states and a variety of electoral systems. Bonneau and Cann use the first national survey of voters in state supreme court elections paired with novel laboratory experiments to evaluate the influence of incumbency and other ballot cues on voters' decisions. Data-rich and analytically rigorous, this provocative volume shows why voters decide to participate in judicial elections and what factors they consider in casting their votes.

    A volume in the series Constitutionalism and Democracy

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3760-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: THE LANDSCAPE OF JUDICIAL ELECTIONS
    (pp. 1-16)

    Judicial elections have been described by critics as a failed experiment (O’Connor and McGregor 2012), “economically inefficient” (Chertoff 2010, 48), a “real and increasing threat to . . . fair and impartial courts” (O’Connor and McGregor 2012, 1742), “‘wild,’ ‘crazy,’ ‘raucous,’ ‘radical,’ ‘nightmarish’” (Pozen 2008, 307), and dominated by “special-interest spending and politics on courts” (Bannon et al. 2013, 27). Indeed, some have even argued that “unqualified votersmay now seem especially likely to make bad choices because a race to the bottom in judicial campaign tactics will lead them to pick politically appealing yetlower-quality candidates” (Pozen 2008, 304),...

  5. 1 INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL FACTORS AND VOTER PARTICIPATION IN STATE SUPREME COURT ELECTIONS
    (pp. 17-34)

    The conventional wisdom about the nature of judicial elections, espoused by interest groups, the media, and policymakers, includes two claims: first, voters do not know anything about judicial elections or the candidates running in them; second, in many cases voters opt not to vote at all. We address the first point in chapters 2 and 3. In this chapter, we address the second claim and investigate the determinants of voter participation in state supreme court elections focusing on the impact of institutional arrangements.

    For decades, scholars of politics have been interested in the determinants of political participation. In order for...

  6. 2 VOTE CHOICE IN STATE SUPREME COURT ELECTIONS
    (pp. 35-56)

    In this chapter, we turn our attention from the determinants of participation to the determinants of vote choice. If most voters are completely unfamiliar with judicial candidates as some have claimed, then voting in these elections should be random, and we should not be able to explain individuals’ vote choices by such variables as partisanship, ideology, qualifications of the candidates, and so forth. However, it may be the case that voters make decisions in judicial elections in much the same way they do in other elections. That is, while they may be somewhat unfamiliar with the candidates (a charge that...

  7. 3 VOTING DECISIONS IN PARTISAN AND NONPARTISAN ELECTIONS
    (pp. 57-68)

    In the previous chapter, we found that nonpartisan elections are minimally effective at removing partisan cues from voters. While Democrats are somewhat likely to vote for the Democratic candidate (and Republicans are more likely to vote for the Republican candidate) in partisan elections than nonpartisan elections, there is still a remarkable amount of partisan voting in nonpartisan elections.

    This finding is unique in many ways. Adamany and Dubois (1976) found that the correlation between partisanship and vote choice in nonpartisan elections in Wisconsin was rather weak in comparison to several partisan states. While some scholarship has shown higher rates of...

  8. 4 DOES ONE GOOD TERM DESERVE ANOTHER? INCUMBENCY AND VOTE CHOICE
    (pp. 69-84)

    One of the enduring findings in electoral politics is that incumbents generally fare better than non-incumbents. While this finding is reasonably well established, a veritable plethora of explanations exists for this incumbency advantage. Incumbents often enjoy greater name recognition than non-incumbents (Jacobson 2013). Some incumbents enjoy perquisites of office that bestow an electoral advantage (Cover and Brumberg 1982; Fiorina 1977; Shepsle 1978). Incumbents generally also enjoy the benefits of an established fund-raising network, a campaign staff with a demonstrated track record of success, and a set of constituents who have already voted to support them at least once before (Green...

  9. 5 VOTING YES: RETENTION ELECTIONS
    (pp. 85-100)

    Thus far, we have confined our analysis to contestable state supreme court elections; that is, those elections that are capable of involving more than one candidate. These elections mirror those for executives and legislatures throughout the United States. However, a sizable minority of state supreme court elections are not contestable; voters are able to vote to keep (or not keep) the incumbent, but they are not given an alternative candidate for whom to vote. These elections are referred to as retention elections, and they are commonly a component of the so-called merit selection system. We discussed how these elections generally...

  10. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 101-120)

    In this book, we have explored the individual-level causes of voter participation and vote choice in state supreme court elections, the influences of ballot cues (such as partisan affiliation and incumbency status) on these choices, and the interactions between individual-level factors and ballot cues. After briefly summarizing our empirical results, we propose a shift in the judicial selection debate from accountability versus independence to transparency versus nontransparency, examine the implications of our results for lower court elections, speculate about future challenges and ongoing issues in the conduct of state supreme court elections, and, finally, take a step back and discuss...

  11. APPENDIX A: ABOUT THE CCES
    (pp. 121-122)
  12. APPENDIX B: LIST OF RACES INCLUDED IN THE STUDY
    (pp. 123-130)
  13. APPENDIX C: EXPERIMENTS
    (pp. 131-138)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 139-146)
  15. REFERENCES
    (pp. 147-158)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 159-164)