Letting the voters judge
Indiana’s circuit court judges are elected on partisan ballots across the state, but the selection of superior court judges varies widely. Allen County’s are elected on a nonpartisan basis, but other methods include partisan ballots and an appointment-and-retention-vote model. While all appear to have advantages and disadvantages, Marion County’s has few redeeming qualities.
In Indianapolis, the two major parties have worked out a deal – 10 judges are Republicans, 10 are Democrats. So each party places half the number of the seats up for election on its primary ballot, and when voters go to the general election, there are no contests – the decisions have been made in the primary.
It gets worse. Because the Marion County parties use a slating system, party insiders choose which candidates they want on the primary ballots. So even though the voters theoretically choose the judges, when they step into the ballot box, there is no choice.
Common Cause of Indiana has filed a suit now moving through the courts that challenges the process. For too long the party bosses have controlled the judicial selection process in Marion County and denied voters any meaningful role in it, Common Cause Policy Director Julia Vaughn said.