After the close presidential election of 2000, many Americans have become increasingly aware of the courts’ role in the election process, whether it is due to disputes over civil rights, campaign finance laws and regulations, or ballot access issues. While the federal government plays a predominant role in the election process, this module is meant to provide information on the legal and governmental context of courts’ roles in elections.
Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may
be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.
Election Law Program Launched by William & Mary and National Center for State Courts.
The story of the 2009-10 elections, and their aftermath in state legislatures in 2011, reveals a coalescing national campaign that seeks to intimidate America’s state judges into becoming accountable to money and ideologies instead of the constitution and the law.
This study probes patterns of spending by 470 candidates in all contested races for state immediate appellate court seats from 2000 to 2009. It makes the first comprehensive evaluation of the systematic factors that drive spending in lower-level judicial elections with the individual candidate as the unit of analysis. It explores several different explanations for variations in spending, as well.
Judicial scholars worry about the increasing use of attack advertising and hot-button issues in judicial elections. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White has the potential to exacerbate these trends. By surveying lower-court candidates across six states, the authors investigate whether these trends have reached lower-court elections. They also investigate the effects of the White decision by using the varying interpretations of White in these states.
Conventional wisdom states that White has heightened the politicization of judicial elections by facilitating expensive, below-the-belt exchanges that aharply attenuate the incumbency advantage and threaten the legitimacy of state courts. The authors' primary assumption is that if White has had the presumed effects, then there should be measurable changes in key judicial election characteristics: an increased willingness of challenges to enter the electoral arena, decreased electoral support for incumbents, elevated costs of campaigns, and declines in voter participation. Overall, the authors find no statistically discernable changes in state supreme courts or state intermediate appellate court elections on these dimensions.
This article examines how the presence of judicial elections on the ballot impacts voter participation on direct democracy measures affecting justice. Ballot roll-off occurs on judicial elections and direct democracy measures for similar reasons. The authors explore the linkage between judicial elections and direct democracy measures based on theory indicating that ballot measures affect other races on the ballot, particularly when these measures invoke specific issues and the impact of different selection methods on ballot roll-off.
Trends in how judicial campaigns are conducted and in the methods by which states choose to select their judges merit close scrutiny.
This article reports the result of a survey of candidates who ran in partisan and nonpartisan state supreme court elections in 2006. This study provides information regarding how supreme court candidates' campaign organizations are integrated with parties or interest groups, and how they communicate with voters.
This article contemplates the role and the contribution of judicial campaign oversight committees, in regards to upholding ethical conduct though the process of judicial elections and historical examples of how these committees have participated in the past.