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Most 2023 Elections Had Just One Candidate, Many Had None

Many positions on ballots across the nation for the 2023 General Election had one or fewer candidates. Of the nearly 28,000 unique positions up for election last year, over 17,000 were uncontested.

Each cycle, the BallotReady Research team spends thousands of hours working with local election offices across the country to obtain lists of positions up for election, and the certified candidates running for each those positions.

And each cycle, there is a clear trend– a majority of these positions have only one candidate running. This leaves voters confused and disappointed at the ballot box, and enables candidates (typically incumbents) to avoid campaigning or defending their records.

In our latest analysis, take a deeper dive into this phenomenon by looking at our data from the November 2023 General Election where we provided coverage for thousands of positions across the country. Plus, get real look at some of the positions that went uncontested by downloading of a sample of this data from the state of Mississippi.

Nearly 65 Percent of Positions in 2023 Went Uncontested

Over half of Mississippi State Senate races went uncontested. So did 9 New York Supreme Court seat elections and over 30 Virginia House of Delegate seats. And that’s only at the state government level.

During the 2023 General Election, we provided coverage for nearly 28,000 unique positions up for election across multiple states. Of those positions, over 17,000 offered no choice.

Across the country and in almost each state, voters got to the ballot box and only cast a meaningful vote for a few positions while skipping through the majority of their ballots.

See the map below to identify the states with the biggest opportunity to run more candidates across a variety of positions in government.

Nearly 10 Percent of Races Had No Candidates At All

Another staggering revelation is that around 2500 races (10 percent of the positions on the ballot in 2023) had zero certified candidates running.

Not only did these positions go uncontested, but no candidate filed to run whatsoever. In these instances, the situation is handled the same way any other vacancy would be, depending on the position and jurisdiction — i.e., the position is vacant in the short term and then the relevant legislative body or executive appoints an officeholder. However, there are instances where the relevant appointers struggle to find anyone to fill the seat which leads to downsizing, merging services/branches of government or switching to appointed and at-large seats.

Even State Legislature Seats Are Going Uncontested

While the problem gets dramatically worse at more local levels of government, nearly half of our state government elected officials are being elected by default. This includes many seats on state legislatures in various states as well as top judge positions.
At the local levels, there is hardly any competition at all. Thousands of seats on city councils, school boards, and county commissions regularly go uncontested. Meanwhile, positions in our legal system like judges, clerks, district attorneys and sheriffs are the worst offenders with the rate of uncontested races often going as high as 80 percent.

What’s Next?

This analysis is just the start of a deep dive we are taking into this trend this year. Soon, we will offer a look at uncontested races thus far in 2024 as well as a follow up investigation into positions with 0 candidates on the ballot.

From our perspective, the lack of candidates running for positions in local government is a fundamental problem and requires immediate and strategic attention. With help from out partners, we can not only raise awareness of this trend but also help engage more voters and candidates with the process of running for office.

In order to address this problem, candidate recruitment and advocacy organizations in particular need to know which positions are regularly going uncontested and the filing requirements/deadlines for each.

All of this is information that BallotReady can provide in the form of a simple data export or csv. To learn more, simply request a demo with our team.

This article was first published by BallotReady. Read the original article.
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