|Methods of judicial selection|
|Commission selection, political appointment (Missouri Plan)|
A retention election or judicial retention is a periodic process whereby a judge is subject to a vote during an election. A judge is removed from the position if the majority of those voting decree that it will be so.
In a retention election, the incumbent judge is not being evaluated against an opponent. Rather, he or she simply receives votes of yes to retain or no, do not retain.
Retention votes are frequently thought of in connection with the commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection. However, some states that choose state Supreme Court justices for their initial term in office using partisan or non-partisan elections use a retention election for subsequent terms on the court.
Typically, judges and justices in states with retention elections are retained with anywhere from 60-80% of the vote. However, retention elections are sometimes used as opportunities to remove from office judges who have made unpopular rulings. For example, in Iowa's 2010 retention election, David Baker, Marsha Ternus, and Michael Streit, three Iowa Supreme Court justices, were denied retention by slim margins because of the court's unpopular decision to legalize gay marriage.
States with retention elections for all level of courts
States with appellate court retention elections
States with retention elections following popular elections
For these states, once a judge has been elected to the court in a popular election, he or she stands for retention in subsequent elections.
2012 retention elections
For information about judges up for retention 2012, see: JP Election Brief: 2012 Retention Elections.