The Effects of Uncontested Elections on Legislator Performance

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Abstract

Political competition lies at the core of representative democracy. Yet, uncompetitive elections and uncontested races are widespread in the United States, particularly at the state level. In this article, we analyze the consequences of uncontested elections on lawmaking activity. Our primary hypothesis is that legislators who run unopposed are less active lawmakers than those who were selected through competitive elections. Studying roll-call vote participation and bill introduction and enactment for most of the U.S. states for 1999–2000, we find that state legislators elected in unopposed elections perform more poorly compared to their colleagues elected in competitive contests.

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