We document the existence of a gubernatorial election cycle in state executions, suggesting that election year political considerations play a role in determining the timing of executions. Our analysis indicates that states are approximately 25 percent more likely to conduct executions in gubernatorial election years than in other years. We also find that elections have a larger effect on the probability that an African American defendant will be executed in a given year than on the probability that a white defendant will be executed, and that the overall effect of elections is largest in the South. These findings raise concerns that state executions may fail to meet the constitutional requirements stipulated by the Supreme Court in Gregg v. Georgia for the administration of state death penalty laws.
Kubik, Jeffrey D. and Moran, John R., "Lethal Elections: Gubernatorial Politics and the Timing of Executions" (2002). Economics Faculty Scholarship. 93.
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