Senate Confirmation of Supreme Court Nominations During Presidential Election Years
As shown by Figure 1, 17 (81%) of 21 Supreme Court nominations that received final action by the Senate during past presidential election years were confirmed. A majority of the nominations confirmed by the Senate during presidential election years occurred in either the 18th or 19th centuries—specifically, 11 (65%) of 17 such nominations were approved during election years prior to 1900. The most recent occurrence of a nomination being confirmed by the Senate during a presidential election year occurred in 1988 with the confirmation of Anthony M. Kennedy.
Of the 17 nominations confirmed by the Senate during presidential election years, 13 (76%) featured unified party control (i.e., the party of the President was the same as the Senate majority party) and 4 (24%) featured divided party control (i.e., the party of the President was different than the Senate majority party). The most recent occurrence of a nomination being confirmed during a presidential election year that featured unified party control was in 1940 (with the confirmation of Frank Murphy during the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency). The most recent occurrence of a nomination being confirmed during a presidential election year that featured divided party control was in 1988 (with the confirmation of Anthony M. Kennedy during the Reagan presidency).
Of the 17 nominations confirmed by the Senate during presidential election years, 14 (82%) were confirmed prior to the election while 3 (18%) were confirmed after the election.
For the 14 nominations confirmed during presidential election years (and that were also confirmed by the Senate prior to the election), the average number of days from confirmation to the presidential election was 218 days (or approximately 7 months). The median number of days from confirmation to the presidential election was 235 days (or nearly 8 months).
The shortest length of time from confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee to the occurrence of a presidential election was 105 days (with the confirmation of George Shiras Jr. in July of 1892). The greatest length of time was 295 days (with the confirmation of Lucius Lamar in January of 1888).
In contrast, as shown by the figure, the three nominations that were approved by the Senate after a presidential election occurred relatively soon after the election (within 28 to 49 days of the election).
“Final Action by the Senate on Supreme Court Nominations During Presidential Election Years (1789-2020),” CRS IN11519, October 20, 2020 (6-page PDF)
- “Supreme Court Vacancies That Occurred During Presidential Election Years (1789-2020) (CRS IN11514)“
- Supreme Court Appointment and Nomination
- Nomination / Confirmation (CongressionalGlossary.com)
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