Judicial appointments date back to the birth of the American republic. Judges in all 13 states and the federal government were appointed. But in the 1800s, electing judges became the overwhelmingly preferred model.
The primary model for appointing Supreme Court justices today involves bipartisan commissions, which submit slates of potential nominees to state governors, who in turn choose from such lists. This system is known by many as "merit selection," and also as the "Missouri Plan," in honor of Missouri, which first adopted a commission system in 1940.
Today, 24 states use bipartisan nominating panels to fill Supreme Court seats. Once appointed, judges periodically face voters in one-candidate "retention" elections, in which the public votes "yes" or "no" on whether to grant another term.
Nominating commissions also are used by eight states with competitive elections, to help fill Supreme Court vacancies that occur before a term has expired.
To learn more, see:
- "Your State" National Map
- Competitive Election Systems
- American Judicature Society Judicial Selection Materials