In 1994, the Mississippi Legislature changed the way we select judges to a non-partisan election. The Legislature passed MCA Section 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 obligations. It 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.
I can’t vouch for the legislative history behind this law, or why it was enacted. I have heard some, who I call Mississippi political historians, say that the Democrat controlled legislature was concerned with the possible turn of Mississippi to a Republican controlled state, and they wanted to try to do what they could to keep a foothold in the favorable political selection of judges. In other words, they didn’t want “Democrat” judges removed simply because they identified and had ran as a Democrat.
Governor Kirk Fordice, the first Republican Governor since Reconstruction, agreed with he theory that the removal of party labels would improve our judiciary.
As a result, we now have non-partisan judicial elections.