by Grant McLoughlin

Oklahoma Judicial elections have long been afterthoughts. Oklahoma has a two tiered system for selecting judges. Voters elect local trial judges directly through a non-partisan Top Two primary. Every four years local trial judges must run for re-election. Statewide appellate judges are nominated through a nonpartisan judicial nominating commission. The commission is made up of fifteen members, six lawyers and nine non lawyers. The commission sends a list of candidates to the governor, who then appoints those individuals she thinks best to serve. Appellate judges, whether recently appointed or not, then face voters on a nonpartisan retention ballot every four years. Voters have two options: they can either keep the judge; or remove the judge, causing the nominating process to begin anew to fill the vacancy.  Prior to this system judges ran in partisan races and were forced to commit a great deal of time to campaigning and raising funds.  Since the retention system has been in place in Oklahoma, no judge has ever been removed through a vote of the people. Continue reading