Is Georgia set to make some nonpartisan county judicial elections partisan?

For the most part, Georgia’s judicial elections are nonpartisan affairs. Probate Courts and Magistrate Courts in some localities are notable exceptions which may be done away with if a bill passed by the Georgia Senate Committee on State and Local Governmental Operations becomes law.

SB 457 would end all nonpartisan elections in the state effective January 1, 2013. Only two exceptions are provided for:

  1. Judicial elections under Georgia Code 21-2-138 (State Court, Superior Court, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court)
  2. Elections for county judicial offices (presumably Magistrates Court and Probate Court), local school board office, or consolidated government, if approved of by affected voters.

Under SB 457, if a jurisdiction wanted to continue with nonpartisan elections, the voters would have to approve of such a plan via a referendum on the November 2012 ballot worded “Shall the office of (Insert name of office) be elected in partisan elections?” Moreover, under the terms of the bill, each county judicial office would be voted upon separately.

The bill was approved by the Senate Committee on State and Local Governmental Operations February 29 and is on the Senate’s Second Reading calendar.