Check One and the Accountability is Done: The Harmful Impact of Straight-Ticket Voting on Judicial Elections
States that elect judges are heir to a populist tradition dating back to the Jacksonian era. In the spectrum between independence and accountability, these states emphasize accountability. Systems vary from state to state, and even within states there may be geographic diversity or different selection systems for different levels of courts. Elections can be partisan or non-partisan, contested, or, as in merit-selection states, retention. Some states have dabbled in public financing of judicial elections. Reformers are most critical of contested partisan elections. Those are the elections where the most money is spent, the nastiest ads aired, and the dignity of the judicial office most often impugned. One factor that often goes unnoticed, perhaps because of its unquestioned status in a partisan election, is the ballot itself.