Judicial elections, democratic appointment (e.g., senate confirmation), and the Missouri Plan (a/k/a "merit selection")

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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Voting in Judicial Retention Elections

Voter Response to Salient Judicial Decisions in Retention Elections is an interesting article by Yale Professor Allison P. Harris. Among its points:

"Appointed judges are generally accountable to whichever branch of government (executive or legislative) they rely on for appointment and reappointment. Citizens can hold elected judges accountable with their votes. However, most of the factors driving voter participation in judicial elections are associated with partisan and competitive, rather than retention, elections.
Nonpartisan uncontested judicial retention elections occur in many states for a variety of types of courts.
However, they are especially common in states, like Iowa, that have adopted the Missouri Plan, also referred to as merit selection, for the selection and retention of judges."

"High-profile campaigns against judges running for retention, like the one in Iowa in 2010, are not the norm, and most campaigns will not achieve their goal of removing judges from the bench. But justice removal is not the only reason we should be interested in campaigns against retention and shifts in retention race results. If voters are the only ones who can punish or reward Missouri Plan judges after appointment, then it is important to understand the factors related to shifts in participation in these races. The results of analyses presented in this article suggest that we need to take greater care in evaluating the extent to which judges who run in retention elections are independent from voters. Voters do respond to salient decisions and mobilization in retention races. Even if the judges running in these elections are ultimately retained because more of the voters cast yes votes than no votes, they are not as independent from voters as opponents of retention elections often argue."

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