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Ballot Roll-off in Intermediate Appellate Court Elections
Unformatted Document Text:  4 might expect. The mean roll-off in Hall’s (2007) study of supreme court elections (654 elections from 1980-2000) was 25.63 percent, a difference of only 3.49 percent. 4 [Table 1 about here] Another similarity between roll-off in IAC and supreme court elections is that there is significant variance across states. If contextual factors did not influence potential voters, then roll-off would be random. In other words, the percentages should be nearly consistent across states. As Table 1 indicates, that is definitely not the case. For example, the average roll-off in Alabama (n=16) was only 8.1 percent compared to Michigan (n=12) where average roll-off was more than five times as high (roughly 42 percent). In one Texas IAC race, less than 1 percent of the electorate rolled off. At the other end of the spectrum, 64.34 percent of voters failed to cast a vote in an Arizona retention election. The standard deviations in Alabama and Oklahoma are miniscule, but they are quite large in Texas and Indiana. Clearly, then, roll-off in IAC elections is not random. As Hall (2007, 1140) writes about supreme court roll-off, “[T]he extraordinary variations that occur in citizen participation both across and within states do not speak to a consistently apathetic electorate and simply beg scientific explanation.” We now turn to those explanations. Modeling Ballot Roll-off Simply because roll-off in IAC elections, as in supreme court elections, is not random does not mean that differences do not exist between the two levels regarding the significant 4 Roll-off for both types of appellate court elections is higher than for most other offices or propositions for which people vote. Although admittedly the study only looked at roll-off in one election year in one state, Wattenberg et al. (2000) found that average roll-off for House and state legislative elections was only 4 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Even for low-information partisan statewide contests, such as controller or insurance commissioner, roll-off was only around 5 percent. In his study of statewide propositions, Magleby (1984) found that roll-off averaged between 15-18 percent, still substantially lower than roll-off in appellate court elections.

Authors: Streb, Matthew., Frederick, Brian. and LaFrance, Casey.
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4
might expect. The mean roll-off in Hall’s (2007) study of supreme court elections (654 elections
from 1980-2000) was 25.63 percent, a difference of only 3.49 percent.
4
[Table 1 about here]
Another similarity between roll-off in IAC and supreme court elections is that there is
significant variance across states. If contextual factors did not influence potential voters, then
roll-off would be random. In other words, the percentages should be nearly consistent across
states. As Table 1 indicates, that is definitely not the case. For example, the average roll-off in
Alabama (n=16) was only 8.1 percent compared to Michigan (n=12) where average roll-off was
more than five times as high (roughly 42 percent). In one Texas IAC race, less than 1 percent of
the electorate rolled off. At the other end of the spectrum, 64.34 percent of voters failed to cast a
vote in an Arizona retention election. The standard deviations in Alabama and Oklahoma are
miniscule, but they are quite large in Texas and Indiana. Clearly, then, roll-off in IAC elections
is not random. As Hall (2007, 1140) writes about supreme court roll-off, “[T]he extraordinary
variations that occur in citizen participation both across and within states do not speak to a
consistently apathetic electorate and simply beg scientific explanation.” We now turn to those
explanations.
Modeling Ballot Roll-off
Simply because roll-off in IAC elections, as in supreme court elections, is not random
does not mean that differences do not exist between the two levels regarding the significant
4
Roll-off for both types of appellate court elections is higher than for most other offices or propositions for which
people vote. Although admittedly the study only looked at roll-off in one election year in one state, Wattenberg et
al. (2000) found that average roll-off for House and state legislative elections was only 4 percent and 8 percent,
respectively. Even for low-information partisan statewide contests, such as controller or insurance commissioner,
roll-off was only around 5 percent. In his study of statewide propositions, Magleby (1984) found that roll-off
averaged between 15-18 percent, still substantially lower than roll-off in appellate court elections.


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