Mississippi judicial elections

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Judges in Mississippi participate in non-partisan elections, except for the justice court judges, which are selected in partisan elections.[1] Most judicial elections take place in even-numbered years. However, local judicial elections for the justice courts and any municipal judgeships occur in odd years.[2][3]

Election Process

Primary election

Mississippi does not hold primary elections for judicial candidates.[4]

General election

Qualified judicial candidates, including those running unopposed, appear on the general election ballot. There is no indication of party affiliation. When two or more candidates are competing for a seat, they are listed in alphabetical order.[4]

The winner of the general election is determined by majority vote. If no candidate receives a majority (over 50 percent) of the total vote, the top two candidates advance to a runoff election that takes place three weeks later.[4]

The judges are elected to the following terms, respectively, after which they must seek re-election if they wish to retain the seat:

Supreme Court Court of Appeals Circuit Court Chancery Court County Court Justice Court
Non-partisan election Non-partisan election Non-partisan election Non-partisan election Non-partisan election Partisan election
8 year term 8 year term 4 year term 4 year term 4 year term 4 year term
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Candidates

Lists of registered candidates are posted on the Mississippi Secretary of State website.

Election results

Statewide results are eventually posted on the Secretary of State website, though newspapers and county elections websites may post results sooner.


Trendsetter: A brief history of judicial elections in Mississippi

As is true of most states, Mississippi has used various methods to select its judiciary. What is interesting to note, however, is that Mississippi is historically a trendsetter among the states for how judges are elected.

In the original 1817 state constitution, all judges were selected by the state legislature.[5] These appointments were for life and required approval by both houses of the state legislature.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many The legislature retained this power for just 15 years, however; in 1832, Mississippi became the first state in the nation to implement popular vote judicial elections. The state once again changed how judges were selected. In 1868, the Mississippi legislature chose to move away from popular vote elections of its judiciary. Instead, the state followed the then-recent trend of gubernatorial appointment and subsequent state senate confirmation.

This method of selection remained intact until the early twentieth century. It was not until 1910 that the state made any move to again change its method of judicial selection. That year, the state reinstated some popular vote judicial elections. By 1914 the state once again had fully embraced popular vote judicial elections. This method of judicial selection and election is the current method of selection used in the state.

Recent changes to Mississippi judicial elections

Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act (1994)

The popular vote elections in Mississippi were historically partisan. The state legislature yet again made a tweak to the way judges are elected with the Nonpartisan Judicial Election Act.[5] Passed in 1994, the purpose behind the Act was to ensure "campaigns for nonpartisan judicial office remain nonpartisan and without any connection to a political party."Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name cannot be a simple integer. Use a descriptive title Further, the Act limited the way political parties could contribute to prospective judge campaigns. Specifically, the Act precluded partisan groups from raising funds on behalf of judicial candidates, directly contributing to their campaigns, or publicly endorsing the candidates. Judicial candidates were also prevented from accepting any financial contributions received from politically affiliated groups.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name cannot be a simple integer. Use a descriptive title

It is interesting to note that this change to the way judicial elections are conducted in Mississippi did not require a constitutional amendment. The reason is that the state constitution only requires that judges be elected. Thus, it does not matter if the elections are partisan or nonpartisan. A formal constitutional amendment, however, would be required should the state decide to lengthen judicial terms or go back to an appointment system of judicial selection.[6]

Campaign finance (1999)

In 1999, the Mississippi legislature instituted campaign finance reforms. Individuals and political action committee contributions to judicial election campaigns were limited. A total of no more than $5,000 could be donated to campaigns at the state supreme court and court of appeals levels. All contributions to other judicial office campaigns were limited to $2,500. Despite these changes, it appeared statistically that there was little change to how money impacted judicial elections. In 2000, ten candidates for just four seats raised a combined $3.4 million. The 2002 state supreme court race saw three candidates raise a combined total of $1.8 million, making it the most expensive campaign for one seat in the state's history at that time.

Concerns regarding judicial impartiality in light of campaign contributions persisted, however. In 2002, the Mississippi Supreme Court changed the state's Code of Judicial Conduct to allow a party to a lawsuit to file a motion to recuse a judge if the opposing party or their attorney made "major" donations to the judge's campaign. A "major donor" was subsequently defined by the Code as one who "contributed more than $2,000 in the case of appellate judges or more than $1,000 for other judges" in the most recent election cycle.[7]

Gubernatorial appointments to fill judicial vacancies (2000)

In Mississippi, filling vacancies in high-level judicial offices has always been a privilege and obligation of the governor. But how long do judges appointed to judicial vacancies actually serve? Before 2002, the appointees were required to run in the next general election to remain on the bench, no matter how long was left in their predecessor's term. In 2002, however, the Mississippi legislature determined that gubernatorial appointees to the state supreme court and court of appeals would serve out the remainder of the unexpired term of their predecessor, provided no more than four years remained in that term. Should the vacancy be for a term longer than four years, the appointed judge must run in the next general election.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

Elections

See also

External links

References

MississippiMississippi Supreme CourtMississippi Court of AppealsMississippi circuit courtsMississippi Chancery CourtMississippi county courtsMississippi justice courtsMississippi youth courtsMississippi municipal courtsUnited States District Court for the Northern District of MississippiUnited States District Court for the Southern District of MississippiUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fifth CircuitMississippi countiesMississippi judicial newsMississippi judicial electionsJudicial selection in MississippiMississippiTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg