Discussion paper

DP14049 Electoral Sentencing Cycles

Exploiting features of the North-Carolina judicial system, elections and forced rotation of judges, we overcome major challenges hampering the identifi cation of the existence and source of sentencing variation over the electoral cycle. We show that when elections approach, sentencing for felonies increase. This increase is driven by decisions taken by judges present in their district of election, and only when elections are contested. When judges operate outside their district of elections, sentencing decisions do not signi ficantly vary over the electoral cycle. Our results demonstrate the existence of strategic sentencing by judges in an attempt to please voters and allow
us to discard alternative explanations for the rise along the cycle, such as behavioral motives or contextual explanations.


Abrams, D, R Galbiati and A Philippe (eds) (2019), “DP14049 Electoral Sentencing Cycles”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 14049. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14049