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Voters in Judical Elections - An Attentive Public or an Uninformed Electorate?

NCJ Number
Justice System Journal Volume: 9 Issue: 1 Dated: (1984) Pages: 23-39
N P Lovrich; C H Sheldon
Date Published
17 pages
In an effort to secure the appropriate balance between the competing values of democratic accountability and judicial independence, most states have 'reformed' judicial elections to provide for non-partisan, de-politicized contests for office. The conventional view of the results of such reforms is that voters show little interest in and scant knowledge of such elections, hence making these contests symbolic exercises. Quite another conception of the judicial electorate and judicial elections is possible, however.
Borrowing from the work of Gabriel Almond, one can argue that the judicial electorate may well be composed of an 'attentive public' whose level of interest and information is sufficient to constitute 'an informed and interested stratum... before whom elite discussion and controversy takes place.' The credibility of such a view of the judicial electorate is assessed in light of sample survey data on registered voters contacted immediately following Oregon's May, 1982 statewide judicial and non-judicial primaries. The evidence suggests that an attentive public conception of the judical electorate may well be an appropriate image to describe elective judicial selection systems. (Publisher abstract)