In Voters’ 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
There can be no doubt whatsoever that this is a major contribution to the literatures on both state courts in general and judicial elections more specifically. This is an excellent book on a topic of great contemporary interest and importance.
In Voters' Verdicts Chris Bonneau and Damon Cann use a unique national dataset of individuals’ voting decisions to provide important new insights into the judicial election process. Those insights will be significant for the continuing debate over whether to reform the methods used to select and retain judges in the United States.
Past survey-based studies have focused on one or two states, so the shift to a national survey is an important step. With this combination of individual-level data and a cross-state design, the authors could analyze the determinants of participation in supreme court elections and vote choice in new and valuable ways.
Chris W. Bonneau, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh, is coauthor with Melinda Gann Hall of In Defense of Judicial Elections. Damon M. Cann, Associate Professor of Political Science at Utah State University, is author of Sharing the Wealth: Member Contributions and the Exchange Theory of Party Influence in the U.S. House of Representatives.