The American Judges Association

Protecting you Rights

There are two different permutations of the election method of selecting state judges.

These are Partisan and Non-Partisan elections. Partisan elections have the candidates’ party affiliation listed on the ballot. A non-partisan election is one where the candidates are listed on the ballot with no label designating any party affiliation. Six states use partisan elections and 15 states currently employ the non-partisan election process.

The debate continues to rage over which method most limits the role of politics in the selection of state judges, with many states currently involved in trying to redefine their systems. Missouri faces an initiative on their ballot in November; the state’s historical merit selection method would be discarded and replaced by direct judicial elections.

This eventually became the common method of choice for a majority of states for many years.

Advocates of appointment claim it minimizes political considerations in the selection of judges, improves the quality of the judiciary and ensures judicial independence in deciding cases. In particular, the use of a judicial nominating commission composed primarily of lawyers and distinguished members of the community is seen as bringing a degree of expertise to the process of picking judges. Their argument in its favor is that, unlike elective systems, the Missouri Plan is more likely to select qualified judges they say, because they are selected by experts. This assumes the voters, as a whole, are apathetic toward judicial races, are not familiar with the issues at hand, and are basically not competent to vote on judicial candidates.