Partisan Election

Partisan Election in the United States

Election in which the candidates run for office with party affiliation indicated on the ballot. Partisan elections first became popular in the 1830s during the height of Jacksonian democracy. Many states that had initially selected judges by means of executive or legislative appointment turned to partisan election in an effort to make judges and other office holders more accountable. A number of states subsequently opted to hold nonpartisan elections in an effort to reduce the influence of political party machines and bosses. The responsibility for candidate recruitment and campaign financing falls primarily to the parties in states with partisan elections. The party label often becomes the key factor when citizens make voting choices. Access to the ballot in partisan election states may be accomplished by petition, but typically the parties nominate candidates by caucus or at conventions.

See Also

Judicial Accountability (Judicial Personnel issue) Nonpartisan Election (Judicial Personnel issue).

Analysis and Relevance

Partisan elections tend to have higher turnouts than nonpartisan elections because there are mechanisms within the parties that prompt people to vote. Party labels simplify voter decision making but also tend to mask important candidate differences because many voters do not consider more than party affiliation. Incumbents in all elections are likely to be returned to office, but higher proportions of incumbents tend to be defeated in partisan election states than states using nonpartisan elections. If a minority party candidate happens to win a judgeship because of a presidential election or some other event influencing the election, that incumbent is more vulnerable in succeeding elections than an incumbent in a nonpartisan state. Twelve states use partisan elections for at least some of their judgeships. Each of these states permits its governor to make interim appointments when vacancies occur before the end of a full term. While these interim appointees must eventually run in an election to retain the office, executive appointment, not election, initially places many state court judges on the bench. Thus, states using partisan elections must be seen as states that tend to use the executive appointment method to initially fill judicial positions.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Partisan Election from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Partisan Election: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Partisan Election. This part provides references, in relation to Partisan Election, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Partisan Election by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Partisan Election and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Partisan Election or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Partisan Election and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Partisan Election. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Partisan Election should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Partisan Election when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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