NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Selection and Incentive Effects of Elections: Evidence from State Supreme Courts

Elliott Ash, W. Bentley MacLeod

NBER Working Paper No. 22071
Issued in March 2016, Revised in May 2019
NBER Program(s):The Law and Economics Program, The Labor Studies Program, The Political Economy Program

Using data on state supreme court judges for the years 1947 through 1994, we find that judges selected by nonpartisan elections and judges selected by technocratic merit commissions produce higher-quality work than judges selected by partisan elections. Election-year pressure reduces work output, but only partisan elections reduce work quality. Moving from nonpartisan elections to uncontested elections increases work quality for incumbent judges, while there is no effect on incumbent judge performance when moving from partisan to nonpartisan elections, or when moving from partisan to uncontested elections, consistent with the hypothesis that non-partisan judges have a greater intrinsic value for quality.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22071

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