Non-partisan election of judges
A non-partisan election is one where the candidates are listed on the ballot with no label designating any party affiliation.
Thirteen states choose their state Supreme Court justices in entirely non-partisan elections.
Two additional states, Michigan and Ohio, have an electoral process that includes partisan and non-partisan elements. In Ohio, candidates for the Ohio general election are chosen in partisan primaries; once chosen in this partisan fashion, no party affiliation is listed by their names on the general election ballot. Candidates for the Michigan Supreme Court are nominated at party conventions, which means that they are chosen in a partisan fashion. However, no partisan affiliation is listed by their name as it appears on the ballot.
The 105 justices chosen by this method represents 31% of all State Supreme Court justices. The states that employ this method of selection are:
Intermediate appellate courts
Judges of the intermediate appellate courts are selected in methods identical to those of the state Supreme Courts.
There are 114 levels of trial courts across the nation; for example, the State of Washington has two levels of trial courts, the Washington Superior Court and Washington District Courts. Serving on these courts are over 16,000 judges, who are elected in a myriad of ways.
By state, many more state trial court judges participate in non-partisan elections than appellate court judges. While only fifteen states hold non-partisan elections for appellate judges, in twenty-two states trial court judges participate in non-partisan elections.
States with non-partisan elections for all trial courts
The majority of these states hold non-partisan elections for all of their trial courts. Those eighteen states are:
States with exceptions to non-partisan elections
In four states, there are exceptions to which courts hold non-partisan elections for their trial courts.
- Arizona: In Arizona, judges of the Superior Court in counties with populations exceeding 250,000 are appointed via the commission-selected, political appointment method. Since Proposition 108 was adopted in 1974 (which originally set the population limit at 150,000), only Maricopa and Pima counties have been affected. With the 2010 census, however, Pinal County became the third county in the state to be eligible, and later adopt, this method.
- Indiana and Maryland: In both of these states, some judges of the Circuit Courts participate in non-partisan elections.
Montana changes from non-partisan to partisan
On September 17, 2012, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Montana's non-partisan election system, finding it to be unconstitutional. Political parties are now legally able to support or oppose judicial candidates in Montana. The state has not yet decided whether to appeal the court's decision.
- Partisan election of judges
- Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection
- Legislative election of judges