Gavel Grab

Voters Reject Ballot Items on Merit Selection in Three States

On Tuesday, voters in Missouri, Arizona and Florida rejected ballot items proposing to change the way judges are chosen under merit-based judicial selection systems.

Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg hailed the defeat of Amendment 3 in Missouri, which sought to undermine a pioneering merit system often called the “Missouri Plan.”

“Missouri’s voters have decisively rejected a special-interest campaign to inject politics into Missouri’s courtrooms,” Brandenburg said in a press release.

“The Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan has served as a model judicial selection system for impartial courts in more than 30 states,” he said. “Across America, special interests are working to weaken merit selection so that judges can be pressured by partisan politics. Tuesday’s vote will send a strong message around the county not to tamper with a system that has helped insulate judges from politics for decades.”

An Associated Press article reported on the defeat of the ballot measure, in which 76% of voters rejected Amendment 3.

In Florida, voters defeated Amendment 5, a referendum to require state Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justices who are nominated by the governor,  by a margin of 63%-37%. “Florida lawmakers denied more control over courts,” a Fox 4 headline declared.

Also defeated was an Arizona measure, Proposition 115, to allow  the governor to pick more members of a judicial nominating commission, and to eliminate a requirement that a final list of candidates recommended to the governor include individuals from different political parties.

Mark Harrison, former Arizona State Bar president and a leader of a group opposing the measure, voiced relief it was defeated, according to a Cronkite News Service article.

“We haven’t seen the last of this issue,” he said. “But I’m sure glad we won this battle.” Harrison also is Justice at Stake’s board chairman.

“Tuesday’s vote will send a strong message around the country not to tamper with a system that has helped insulate judges from politics for decades,” Brandenburg said in a  joint analysis by JAS and the Brennan Center for Justice.


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