State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: top two election

Politics and courts in Oklahoma: Recipe for Accountability? Or Corruption?

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

It Takes Two: Washington State’s Primary System Divides Scholars, Unites Parties

by Devin Braun

As states like Arizona contemplate changes to their electoral primary systems, it’s important to give an update of how Washington State, one of the nation’s premier laboratories of the Top Two primary, along with Louisiana and California, has fared politically and legally since its overhaul in 2004. Washington’s system emerged from the wreckage of the Supreme Court’s rejection of blanket primaries in the 2000 case California Democratic Party v. Jones. In Washington, all eligible candidates list their party of preference, including but not limited to classics like the Employment and Wealth Party, and the top two vote-getters regardless of party advance to the general election. The logic behind such a model is that by opening up the primary to more candidates at one time, the likelihood will be greater of having to get the necessary support from closer to the political center. This would, in turn, produce more moderate politicians, activate greater interest among politically independent voters, and cut back against the corrosive influence of party machines. Continue reading

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