Claire S. H. Lim, James Snyder, 13 July 2021

There are many ways to select and retain public officials in representative democracies. This column discusses the literature on selection and retention procedures for low-information public offices. The authors first overview the historical origins of the variation. Then, they discuss conceptual frameworks used to assess the functioning of direct elections and present empirical regularities.  Finally, the authors suggest avenues for future research aided by digitisation and improved textual analysis of media coverage and government data.

David Abrams, Roberto Galbiati, Emeric Henry, Arnaud Philippe, 28 November 2019

In the field of criminal justice, there is wide agreement that judges should be both independent and accountable, but little consensus on how to ensure they are both. This column looks at the US state of North Carolina, where judges are elected and forced to rotate between districts. It finds that in the face of electoral incentives, judges behave like politicians in pandering to what they perceive as electors’ preferences, which can result in the unequal treatment of otherwise similar cases.  

Christian Dippel, Michael Poyker, 26 June 2019

The US is unusual in that it elects most of its judges. This column uses new data from ten US states to investigate whether those judges change their sentencing pattern when they are due to stand for re-election. The findings reveal evidence of election cycles in sentencing in only four of the ten states. In others, there is anecdotal evidence that professional norms may protect sitting judges from electoral challenge.

David Abrams, Roberto Galbiati, Emeric Henry, Arnaud Philippe, 05 June 2019

The rule of law in advanced democracies is based on the assumption that the law and its application are the same for all citizens. But research has shown that judges respond to ideology or political biases in their sentencing decisions. This column examines how location can also influence criminal court sentences using data from the US state of North Carolina’s superior court system. It shows that, even after controlling for characteristics of judges, sentencing varies by location and responds to local norms.


CEPR Policy Research