Incumbents tend to do better in elections for any office than newcomers facing incumbents. This is no less true in state supreme court elections. Across all types of state supreme court elections, incumbent justices running for re-election won 93% of the time from 2008-2019. No more than six incumbent justices have lost in a single year during this time frame. 2008 was the year with the lowest incumbent win rate at 89%.
Among the 38 states that conduct elections for supreme court justices, 11 have seen incumbents lose elections from 2008-2019. These were Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. In the other 27 states, incumbent supreme court justices won re-election 100% of the time from 2008-2019.
Thirty-five states are holding state supreme court elections in 2020. In total, 84 of the nation’s 344 state supreme court seats are up for election.
Of these seats, at the start of 2020:
- 60 are held by non-partisan justices
- 17 are held by Republican justices
- Seven are held by Democratic justices
Twenty-nine states are holding their judicial elections on November 3, 2020. Five states are holding their judicial elections before that date, and one state is holding its judicial elections in December.
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