Peverill Squire
Uncontested Seats in State Legislative Elections
Legislative Studies Quarterly XXV:131-146

Uncontested seats are far more common in U.S. state legislative elections than in U.S. House elections. But the incidence of uncontested seats varies across the states. In this paper, I attempt to explain that variance. Using pooled data on state legislative elections from 1992 to 1996, I test relationships suggested by the literature on uncontested seats in U.S. House elections. In addition, I also look at important differences among the state legislatures, such as level of professionalization, the competitiveness of the state’s electoral system, the use of multimember districts, and the institution of term limits. I find that the value of a seat, measured either by professionalization level or member pay, and the competitiveness of the state’s electoral system are powerful variables in explaining the incidence of uncontested seats across the states. Region also is important, with state legislatures in the South suffering a higher percentage of uncontested seats than state legislatures in the North.

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