Arizona bill would require all judges up for yes/no retention elections self-identify their party on the ballot

A key element of most merit selection plans, the elimination of party identification on the ballot, may be under threat in Arizona. HCR 2010, while retaining the state’s merit selection system with yes/no retention elections, may require that those seeking re-election nevertheless self-identify by party on the ballot.

First, some background.

Arizona uses, in effect, five different judicial selection systems:

  • Merit selection with yes/no retention elections: Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Superior Courts in counties with a populati0n over 250,000 (Maricopa and Pima) or counties that opt in (none have)
  • Partisan primary election/nonpartisan general election: Superior Courts other than Maricopa & Pima. For example in August 2012 two Democrats challenged each other for the Division 2 seat on the Superior Court for Navajo County in a Democratic primary. The winner faced a Republican in November 2012, but the general election ballots did NOT identify party.
  • Partisan elections: Justice of the Peace (see this example)
  • Nonpartisan elections: City of Yuma Municipal Court
  • Local appointment: Municipal Courts except Yuma

HCR 2010 would amend the state’s constitution to provide that judicial candidates would remain exempt from participating in partisan primaries where applicable (i.e. retention elections). However, at the general election “a candidate for election or retention as a justice or judge shall designate that candidate’s political party affiliation, which shall be displayed on the ballot with that candidate’s name.”

The bill has been filed in the House but not yet assigned to a committee.