It’s an election year. Not a presidential election, no, but one that still has significance for the state of Alabama and its residents.
This year, 31 Democrats and 31 Republicans are running for a party nomination for almost three dozen judge seats in Alabama.
In the election, voters will choose between a Democrat and Republican candidate to fill the judge seat.
This is the way it’s been done not only in Alabama, but also in Louisiana, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. But some—including attorneys and even other judges—are now criticizing partisan elections.
The influx of criticism comes after the November 2012 election, in which five Republican judges were voted off the bench, “a phenomenon blamed mainly on voters’ ability to vote a straight party ticket,” according to Al.com.
After this election, Judge Vowell (a Democrat) said, “I don’t think we could have a worse way to select judges than in partisan elections.”
The Alabama judicial system was even criticized by U.S. Supreme Court judge Sonia Sotomayer, after a trial judge overrode a jury’s decision against the death penalty. (Alabama is also one of the few states that allow judges to override juries’ decisions in death penalty cases.)
Critics of the partisan election system have advocated for the election to be replaced with non-partisan elections or a merit-based appointment of judges.
Justice is supposed to be blind: impartial and fair. This is why partisan elections and party pressures on judges are so problematic. Judges may make biased decisions in order to win voter support or fulfill party preferences.
We’d like to know what you think. Do you believe that judges should be elected along party lines, elected independent of political parties, or appointed?