More than four-fifths of Mississippi’s legislative candidates will have no major-party opposition in the Nov. 7 general election. And more than half of this year’s winners will have faced no other Republicans or Democrats in either the primary or the general election.
Though Mississippi represents an extreme example, it highlights a national decline in competition for state legislative seats. New research suggests the reasons are more complex than mere voter satisfaction with incumbents. It also raises questions about the ability of American voters to hold their elected representatives accountable.
In some states, “there’s so many uncontested seats that one party wins the chamber before an election takes place,” said Steven Rogers, a political scientist at Saint Louis University who focuses on state legislatures.
A democracy “relies on this notion that the people will have some sort of choice,” Rogers added. But “without someone running for office, there isn’t really a choice.”
In Mississippi, the percentage of legislative seats with no major-party opposition in the general election has risen steadily from 63% in 2011 to 85% this year. The percentage with no Republican or Democratic challengers in either the primary or the general election has grown from 45% to 57% over that same time, according to data compiled for The Associated Press by Ballotpedia, a nonprofit organization that tracks elections.
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Thursday, November 2, 2023
The Decline of Electoral Competition
David A. Lieb and Emily Wagster Pettus at AP: