Ballotpedia Analysis: School board incumbents score another term in 81% of races

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School Board Incumbency Report analyzes incumbent success in 2014 elections.

Incumbent Success Rates

Incumbent Success Rates

The idea that U.S. congressional elections, with two national parties at war under the spotlight of constant media coverage, are ultimately less competitive than your average school board race in a large district is shocking.

Ballotpedia has released a new study analyzing the success of school board incumbents running for re-election. With data gathered from their coverage of the 2014 school board elections that took place in the 1,000 largest school districts by enrollment, Ballotpedia found that the incumbents won in 81.32 percent of the races they participated in. Among those who faced challengers, 70.89 percent won re-election.

The school board incumbent re-election rate of 81.32 percent is significantly lower than the average congressional re-election rate over the past 10 election cycles; an average of 86.1 percent of U.S. Senate incumbents were re-elected to their seats while 94.2 percent of U.S. House incumbents have won re-election.

According to Daniel Anderson, Editor of Ballotpedia’s Local Desk, “It’s no secret that political officeholders carry a serious advantage over their opponents. Nevertheless, it’s surprising that a school board incumbent’s advantage is so much smaller than that of a U.S. representative. School board elections are generally nonpartisan affairs with little competition, less money and close to zero media attention. The idea that U.S. congressional elections, with two national parties at war under the spotlight of constant media coverage, are ultimately less competitive than your average school board race in a large district is shocking.”

In 2014, Ballotpedia covered elections for 2,182 school board seats in 667 school districts in 37 states. Of the 75.57 percent of school board incumbents who ran for re-election, 35.84 percent ran unopposed. Of those incumbents who faced challengers, 70.89 percent won their re-election bids. In total, incumbents were elected to 61.46 percent of all seats that were up for election.

The following eight states had 100 percent incumbency success rates in their 2014 school board elections: Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island and South Dakota. The 100 percent success rate was easier to achieve in these states than others, however, as none of these eight states had more than five top enrollment school districts holding elections.

After eliminating states that had fewer than 20 top enrollment school district elections in 2014, Arizona had the highest overall success rate for incumbents, with 89.74 percent winning re-election. Over a third of the incumbents running in Arizona, however, were unopposed. When looking at only races with one or more challengers, Michigan had the highest contested incumbent success rate, with 84.44 percent defeating challengers to retain their seats.

Ballotpedia covers school board elections, incumbents, challengers and news developments in America's top 1,000 public school districts, as measured by student enrollment. Ballotpedia’s local team will continue to release this report each year.

About Ballotpedia
Ballotpedia is the encyclopedia of American politics. The mission of Ballotpedia is to empower people to engage in democracy by delivering exceptionally high quality information that is easy to access. Ballotpedia includes information to equip voters with the facts about local, state, and federal politics and public policy. Since the organization’s founding in December 2006, LBI’s online articles have received more than 450 million page views.
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If you’d like more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact Kristen Mathews at Kristen.Mathews(at)ballotpedia(dot)org.

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