Do Non-Partisan Elections Yield More Qualified Judicial Candidates?

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Authors
Bates, Finlay
Advisor
Street, Alex
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Date of Issue
2024
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Title
Do Non-Partisan Elections Yield More Qualified Judicial Candidates?
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Abstract
A study involving four states, two with partisan judicial elections and two with non-partisan judicial elections. The comparisons uses 2 large states and two small states: The large states are Texas (partisan) and Minnesota (non-partisan). The small states are New Mexico (partisan) and Montana (non-partisan). It is meant to discern which system for electing candidates results in more qualified elected state supreme court justices. The study was conducted using criteria from the American Bar Association and other third-party judge rating sources. I use a scoring system that takes the following into account: Clerkship, years of practice, education level, School/institution, political experience, supreme court cases, # of won elections at the federal or state supreme court level, and the number of times they were elected to a lower state court. The study adds to the literature on the quality of candidates in our increasingly polarizing world. Some conclusions have been reached about the data collected; in larger states, the difference in scores between the elected candidates and the losing candidates was not significant. But in the small states, where there is less competition, the partisan state elected the less qualified candidate, while in non-partisan Montana, the more qualified candidate was chosen by the vote. The other observation that came from my research is that in states with partisan elections seats on the State Supreme Court were more likely to be contended for.
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Political Science