It’s OK to Vote “No” in Retention Elections
August 15, 2012
The New York Times repeats the canard that retention elections are “meant to weed out incompetent or corrupt judges.” This is becoming a favorite meme of elites trying to protect liberal, anti-business, activist judges from the wrath of voters. The whole idea is to intimidate voters into believing they have no standing to vote out a judge who engages in judicial activism and legislates from the bench, such as the Iowa justices who struck down the state’s traditional marriage law.
As I wrote yesterday (please see below), states have plenty of mechanisms in place to remove incompetent or corrupt judges. Retention elections serve an entirely different purpose. They are meant specifically to hold judges accountable to the people they serve. In American democracy, every public servant must ultimately be accountable to the people. Judges who are insulated from public accountability are more likely to exceed their limited judicial authority. Retention elections are a tool, albeit an imperfect one, for people to remind judges that they may be independent from the other branches of government, but they are not independent from the people – and voters should not be afraid to use it.