Problems of Partisan Election of Judges in the U.S.


In the states where the judges are directly selected through the partisan method, they get into office through similar manners as the members of the legislature. The city of Texas is one such a state where the judges run for office as either the Republicans or the Democrats (Bonneau and Damon 43). The argument supporting the system is that the elected judges must be loyal and accountable to the voters who elect them. In fact, the system of partisan selection is considered more democratic than the other ways utilized in selecting judges elsewhere. Democracy is seen in the process of allowing the electorate to identify and elect the person of their choice to the office. However, many shortcomings of the system have been pointed out in the discussions of the system of electing judges. Consequently, this discussion highlights the various weaknesses that are associated with the judicial system by partisan methods.

Challenges of the System

Firstly, the nature of the job undertaken by the judges requires non-partisan stands and decisions that are justifiable by the law. However, with the partisan elections, the judges are likely to make decisions that are pleasing to their supporters and those who voted for them (Bonneau and Damon 43). Such verdicts are contrary to the law and, at times, according to the opinions of the supporters.

Secondly, a challenge could be pointed out in the compromise of the judge’s independence. In fact, any sitting judge could be expected to remain objective in decision-making. Nevertheless, the process of partisan election implies that some of the voters contribute in a way towards the campaign of the judge (Canes, Tom, and Jee 211). Consequently, when the judge is elected, then he could be inclined to favor the sides that supported him and, at times, consult them before any ruling. The process of soliciting financial support from the public works to compromise on the level of independence of the judges. In fact, the judges often work to please the respective supporters and financiers. Therefore, the judges could not be expected to stand for justice during the period of service.

Thirdly, the point of competencies and qualifications could be raised in the discussion. Worth appreciating is that for the judges to be elected, they may not be vetted on professional and academic qualifications but rather on the ability to appeal to the electorate (Besley and Abigail 212). Therefore, the third argument indicates the possibility of the elected judges to fail on the profession for lack of competence as they are elected on the ability to appeal to the public.

The fourth argument raised in criticism of the partisan selection of the judges is the perception of fairness. As contended previously, the judges are selected with total disregard of the candidate’s professionalism and record of accomplishment. Accordingly, when the system overlooks the suitability by merit, the most suited candidates could be treated unfairly (Besley and Abigail 212). Therefore, the imbalanced competition may set a platform where the citizen may lack the services of a profession and hence perpetuate such vices as the corruption.

Finally, the discussion points out the discriminatory nature of the elections with the lack of equal representation of all the groups in the election process. For instance, such selection processes often overlook the constitutional mandate of the right of representation of such groups regarded as the minorities in the society (Bonneau and Damon 43). Accordingly, the main challenge pointed out is the aspect of neglecting fair representation of the minority groups, which are often overlooked and ignored.


It is appreciated that the partisan elections for judges, as is the practice in Texas, raises major problems, as highlighted. The nature of the challenges is the lack of objectivity in the judgments, favoritism, lack of minority representation on the selecting bench, lack of fairness, and inadequate knowledge about the competencies of the candidates to the voters.


Works Cited

Besley, Timothy, and A. Abigail Payne. “Implementation of Anti-Discrimination Policy: Does Judicial Selection Matter?” American Law and Economics Review, vol. 15, no.1, 2013, pp. 212-251.

Bonneau, Chris W., and Damon M. Cann. “Party identification and vote choice in partisan and nonpartisan elections.” Political Behavior, vol. 37, no.1, 2015, pp. 43-66.

Canes-Wrone, Brandice, Tom S. Clark, and Jee-Kwang Park. “Judicial independence and retention elections.” Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, vol. 28, no. 2, 2012, pp. 211-234.

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