Election vs. Appointment
Elect or Appoint? A Central Debate
One of the hottest debates in judicial politics today is whether judges should be chosen through competitive election or appointments. Each side has pros and cons.
Competitive Elections are, adherents say, the most democratic way to make judges accountable to the public. But competitive elections have many problems, and critics, who cite their heavy reliance on special interest money. 22 states use competitive elections to fill state supreme court seats, at least some of the time. Learn more about Competitive Elections.
Appointment/Retention Systems, also known as “merit selection,” rely on bipartisan nominating commissions to put slates of candidates to the governor, who picks from that list. Voters then periodically vote on whether to retain these judges. While this greatly reduces special interest money, critics call these systems undemocratic. 24 states use bipartisan commissions to help choose supreme court justices. Learn more about Appointment Systems.
Many view public financing as a way to combat special interest money in judicial elections. Programs implemented have since come under attack. Learn more about public financing.
- Competitive Elections vs. Appointment Resources
- American Judicature Society Judicial Selection Materials