Americans’ Knowledge of Their Local Judges

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Political Behavior, ISSN: 0190-9320, Vol: 39, Issue: 2, Page: 259-277

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Mark Jonathan McKenzie; Cynthia R. Rugeley; Daniel Benjamin Bailey; Seth C. McKee
Springer Nature
Social Sciences
article description
What do Americans know about their local judges and how do they know it? One of the central arguments in the debate over judicial elections is whether voters know enough about judicial candidates to make an informed democratic choice. The vast majority of criminal and civil matters in the U.S. begin with and filter through the local state courts. But judicial scholars know little about what explains the variance in voters’ knowledge of their courts and judges. This paper draws on survey data from the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study to investigate the origins of voter knowledge of local judges. A central finding of this study is that rural voters are a lot more knowledgeable about their local judges than are urban voters, ceteris paribus. This finding has significant consequences for the debate over the ways in which states structure their elections for local judges.