What does uncontested elections mean? Does it matter? Democracy?

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  1. tsmog profile image85
    tsmogposted 6 weeks ago

    Analysis of uncontested elections, 2024 by Ballotpedia
    https://ballotpedia.org/Analysis_of_unc … E7DC8C18A4

    "An uncontested election is one where the number of candidates on the ballot is less than or equal to the number of seats up for election. Candidates running in uncontested elections are virtually guaranteed victory. On average, between 2018 and 2023, 58% of elections covered by Ballotpedia have been uncontested, ranging from a low of 50% in 2021 to a high of 64% in 2020.

    Through March 2024, Ballotpedia has covered 7,325 elections in 37 states. Of that total, 5,517 (75%) were uncontested and 1,808 (25%) were contested.

    The rate of uncontested elections in 2020 was also 75%. This is the highest rate Ballotpedia has covered at this point in the year since data collection began in 2018. The next highest was in 2022, at 73%. The lowest rate at this point was 38% in 2019.

    This analysis includes offices at all levels of government, excluding the presidency. Through March 2024, 89% of the 1,327 local judge elections Ballotpedia has covered have been uncontested, the highest among any office type. Mayoral races have the lowest uncontested rate at 19% of the 32 covered so far."

    Does that revelation indicate a lack of interest in politics?

    Is democracy at work with uncontested seats?

    Is it a matter of life stuff like 'no time to do it' or 'my career comes first' or etc.?

    Is it related to political parties somehow and someway?

    Thoughts or criticisms?

    1. Nathanville profile image92
      Nathanvilleposted 6 weeks agoin reply to this

      I'm just about to start cooking our evening meal when I saw this post: I don't have time to put any thoughts to paper right now; but, the UK Parliament (House of Commons) asked themselves this very same question on the 30th  April 2019 - it makes for an interesting read, and provides a direct comparison between the UK & USA:  Link Below:

      https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/un … ake-place/

      1. tsmog profile image85
        tsmogposted 6 weeks agoin reply to this

        Thanks for sharing!

        A comparison would offer insight, yet unsure of value. Reading the article I don't see much difference with what occurred that it said attributed to the downward trend. The article stated, "This pattern changed due to the introduction of the secret ballot, the expansion of the vote, and the improved organisation of political parties." Those exist today in the US.

        Before I posted the OP I did a little poking about discovering there are studies on this phenomena. However, they had a cost. What light they would have shown on the topic, 'who knows'.

        With the few articles I could access seems the consensus is the district or whatever constituency leans heavily toward one political party and a trend that the incumbent runs unopposed. A party loyalty thing? Perhaps, one could speculate even someone from the same party doesn't see the risk/reward of running against the incumbent.

        1. Nathanville profile image92
          Nathanvilleposted 6 weeks agoin reply to this

          With reference to your 1st paragraph, where as you quoted from the UK article “"This pattern changed due to the introduction of the secret ballot, the expansion of the vote, and the improved organisation of political parties."

          The secret ballot wasn’t introduced in the UK until 1872, and the vote was extended to all women in 1928, by which time the political parties had become better organised.

          So prior to that period, over 100 years ago, over 50% of Parliamentary seats were uncontested; but after the above mentioned improvements uncontested Parliamentary seats dropped to just 10%; and since 1928 have become increasingly rare; the last one being in 1945.

          The problem of uncontested seats in modern times in the UK is only with local government elections; where over the past 50 years uncontested seats have steadily dropped from around 18% to just 2% - which seems in stark contrast to the high percentages of uncontested elections in the USA!

          The caveat is that although only 2% of local government seats are today uncontested in the UK; that does includes Parish Councils (the lowest level of Government) where around 20% of Parish Councils seats are uncontested (for obvious reasons).

          So the question that pops into my mind:  Why the stark contrast between the UK & USA e.g. why such a high level of uncontested elections in the USA but not in the UK?

          Reading your last paragraph, the reason why the 2% of local government seats (including the 20% of Parish Council seats) go uncontested in the UK is different to the reasons you cite for the USA elections.

          1. tsmog profile image85
            tsmogposted 6 weeks agoin reply to this

            Okay, I accept your point of view. Again, it seems obvious there exists shall we say a challenge here in the US. That is why I posted the OP to begin with. The compare/contrast with the UK is interesting, yet does not offer solutions from what I can see.

            "So the question that pops into my mind:  Why the stark contrast between the UK & USA e.g. why such a high level of uncontested elections in the USA but not in the UK?"

            Good question. As for why here, in the US, it is so, I can speculate:

            Gerrymandering
            Incumbency trends
            The majority of a district is strong in one party alignment
            Size of districts when taking into context how many there are, e.g population
            Type of communities, i.e. rural, suburbia, urban, metro
            Civics education & participation at that level
            Apathy towards politics in general or otherwise
            Alienation
            Contentment of the status quo
            Fear
            Prejudice, i.e. race & ethnicity demographics
            Or, . . .

            1. Nathanville profile image92
              Nathanvilleposted 6 weeks agoin reply to this

              Thanks for your list of speculation for reasons “why such a high level of uncontested elections in the USA”:

              In the UK it’s only the Parish Councils where there is a “high level high level of uncontested elections” (20%); and clarity, in the UK Parish Councils is:-

              1.    The lowest level of local government e.g. they come under the jurisdiction of District Councils, who in turn come under the jurisdiction of County Councils.

              2.    Parish Councils in the UK only exist in small, isolated, rural areas e.g. small villages with a small population of maybe just a few hundred or just a few thousand voters at most.

              Therefore, the issues that Parish Councils deal with in the UK are only trivial, non-political, local issues.  So from your list, the only ones that really apply in the UK are:

              •    Size of village, when taking into context how many there are, e.g. small population, and

              •    Type of communities, i.e. rural, suburbia, urban, metro:  In that context Parish Councils are rural (small villages with a small population).

              What is a Parish Council in England, and Who Can Become a Councillor? https://youtu.be/kkvV57yX_gE

              1. tsmog profile image85
                tsmogposted 6 weeks agoin reply to this

                Thanks for the info, Arthur!

                Interesting it is the lesser elections for the highest percent of uncontested in the UK. Lesser probably isn't a fair descriptor as every election in my mind has importance in the grand scheme of democracy.

                I would suspect it is the same here, however not having data to back that up it is speculation at best. There are so many variables at play with the scope of the types of elections.

                1. Nathanville profile image92
                  Nathanvilleposted 6 weeks agoin reply to this

                  I agree; “every election ….has importance in the grand scheme of democracy.”

                  Likewise, I suspect that it is the same in America e.g. that it’s the “lesser elections for the highest percent of uncontested” – That would be logical.

                  1. tsmog profile image85
                    tsmogposted 6 weeks agoin reply to this

                    Howdy!

                    Still having a mind of curiosity I dedicated more time to the Ballotpedia article/study looking for this or that. Unfortunately, there is not data for a breakdown for type of elections. However, I do see oddities prompting questions, for me.

                    [Edit] Poking about discovery shares some information about 2023. It is:

                    Elections for treasurer (87.3% uncontested) and clerk (85.6% uncontested) were the least contested. The rates of uncontested races for other offices were:

                    ** Local judge - 76.5%
                    ** Local councilmember - 57.6%
                    ** School boards - 53.4%
                    ** Mayor - 47.4%

                    Though historically as the graphic at the Ballotpedia article/study shares there is a trend for lack of participation from 2018 - 2024 with the exception of 2019, which dropped to 38% with the caveat there were only 293 elections. In contrast for 2024, which is only three months, there have been 7,325 elections. Wow!

                    Why so many? The next closest is 2022 with 4,295 spanning 12 months. Quiet a disparity between totals. We for sure have the general election in Nov to go.

                    Using the provided map for states by hoovering over it the data is presented - total elections, contested, and uncontested. First, I sought if there was a pattern with red/right wing/conservative states vs. blue/left wing/liberal-progressive states not really seeing anything significant.

                    Then, using a World Population Review interactive table for rural population by state, I sought if those had a higher tendency for uncontested seats. Nope, nada, simply untrue. Arkansas, with whom had the greatest election count as well as uncontested seats is the 6th rural state per that report.

                    The one oddity that is quite apparent is the total elections for 2024 for a three months span = 7,325, which was mentioned earlier. The year 2022 the next highest for total of elections had 4,295. That is a 41% disparity while an oddity is the difference at 3,030 is the near equivalent to the third highest elections total of 3,300. The only cause I speculate is the tenure for a held office. In other words, an anomaly occurred with many arriving simultaneously throughout the nation.

                    Though, those may be true, it does not explain the phenomena of the high percentage of uncontested seats. Certainly a mystery that for me is somewhat concerning as to why while pondering if importance is warranted.

    2. Sharlee01 profile image89
      Sharlee01posted 6 weeks agoin reply to this

      Does that revelation indicate a lack of interest in politics? In my view no, just issues that candidates are up against that truely are insurmountable in some cases.

      Is democracy at work with uncontested seats? No

      Is it a matter of life stuff like 'no time to do it' or 'my career comes first' or etc.?  No, the odds are very much stacked up to ensure that one does not have a cold chance in hell.

      Is it related to political parties somehow and some way?Some elections go uncontested due to a variety of factors that shape the political landscape of a particular jurisdiction. One most common reasons is the advantage held by incumbents, who often possess greater name recognition and greater access to resources.  As well as established networks, making it very hard for potential challengers to mount a credible campaign.

      In areas where one party dominates politically, there may be a lack of viable opposition candidates willing to challenge the status quo, either due to overwhelming support for the incumbent or perceived unwinnability of the race. Restrictive election laws, such as onerous ballot access requirements or gerrymandered districts, can also deter potential challengers from entering the race.

      Furthermore, resource constraints, including financial limitations and organizational challenges, may prevent individuals or parties from contesting elections. Sometimes, strategic decision-making by political parties or candidates leads them to prioritize more competitive races over those deemed less winnable. Toss in voter apathy or disillusionment with the political process can further contribute to a lack of contested elections, as fewer individuals may be motivated to participate as candidates or voters.

      1. tsmog profile image85
        tsmogposted 6 weeks agoin reply to this

        Thanks, Sharlee. For cause I came up with pretty much the same thing. The effects of gerrymandering and incumbents in districts or whatever leaning heavily to one party.

 
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