Partisan elections

Until about 1994, Mississippi elected judges in partisan elections.  Judge Southwick said this about partisan elections:

One of the reasons that partisan elections have fallen into disfavor is that party label is so incredibly important in these elections: “In partisan [judicial] races, the political party label may give most voters all the information they seek.” For reformers, this otherwise decisive piece of information must be kept from the voters to the point, as in Mississippi, of invalidating the election of someone who transgressed.

Leslie Southwick, The Least of Evils for Judicial Selection, 21 Miss. C.L. Rev. 209, 220 (2002)

That year, the Legislature reformed judicial elections.  The following statute was amended:

23–15–973. It shall be the duty of the judges of the circuit court to give a reasonable time and opportunity to the candidates for the office of judge of the Supreme Court, judges of the Court of Appeals, circuit judge and chancellor to address the people during court terms.  In order to give further and every possible emphasis to the fact that the said judicial offices are not political but are to be held without favor and with absolute impartiality as to all persons, and because of the jurisdiction conferred upon the courts by this chapter, the judges thereof should be as far removed as possible from any political affiliations or obligationsIt shall be unlawful for any candidate for any of the offices mentioned in this section to align himself with any candidate or candidates for any other office or with any political faction or any political party at any time during any primary or general election campaign.  Likewise it shall be unlawful for any candidate for any other office nominated or to be nominated at any primary election, wherein any candidate for any of the judicial offices in this section mentioned, is or are to be nominated, to align himself with any one or more of the candidates for said offices or to take any part whatever in any nomination for any one or more of said judicial offices, except to cast his individual vote.  Any candidate for any office, whether nominated with or without opposition, at any primary wherein a candidate for any one of the judicial offices herein mentioned is to be nominated who shall deliberately, knowingly and willfully violate the provisions of this section shall forfeit his nomination, or if elected at the following general election by virtue of said nomination, his election shall be void.

(Emphasis added).  This legislation also created the Court of Appeals.

Thus, in 1994, Mississippi ushered in non-partisan judicial elections.





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