West Virginia Weighs Nonpartisan Judicial Elections

West Virginia legislators will soon debate a measure to make all judicial elections nonpartisan, according to a Herald-Dispatch article.

Senate Bill 10, which would remove party affiliation from judicial nominees, was advanced by Republican leadership as an attempt to clean up the state’s tarnished judicial image. “If enacted,” the article reports, “the bill would require all magistrate and circuit court elections to be nonpartisan starting in 2016. Elections for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals would be nonpartisan for the single seat available in 2016, and nonpartisan for every race after that, including two seats that will be up for election in 2020, and two seats in 2024.”

Former chairman of the Federal Election Committee Bradley Smith doubts the effectiveness of the plan. “The parties still have their guy, the person they want to endorse,” he explains. “The candidates are still going to talk about the issues, and you’re going to see if they are more conservative or more liberal.” Still, he says the measure would be a step in the right direction.

West Virginia is just the latest state to discuss pulling away from partisan elections, an editorial from the Herald-Dispatch explains. As campaign spending grows, judicial impropriety is becoming a greater issue across the country. Now 22 states have nonpartisan judicial elections on at least the trial level, while others have eliminated judicial direct elections altogether.