State legislatures hold tremendous authority over key facets of our lives, ranging from healthcare to marriage to immigration policy. In theory, elections create incentives for state legislators to produce good policies. But do they?
Drawing on wide-ranging quantitative and qualitative evidence, Steven Rogers offers the most comprehensive assessment of this question to date, testing different potential mechanisms of accountability. His findings are sobering: almost ninety percent of American voters do not know who their state legislator is; over one-third of incumbent legislators run unchallenged in both primary and general elections; and election outcomes have little relationship with legislators’ own behavior.
Rogers’s analysis of state legislatures highlights the costs of our highly nationalized politics, challenging theories of democratic accountability and providing a troubling picture of democracy in the states.