Tennessee becomes latest state to consider ending partisan judicial races; incumbent judges would be guaranteed to have their name first on the ballot

Tennessee has joined a growing list of states considering an end to partisan judicial races.

Tennessee, like a great many states, does not just rely on 1 method of judicial selection. The state’s appellate courts are chosen in a quasi-federal system (governor appoints, House/Senate confirm, followed by retention elections). Trial courts are picked in any number of ways, including partisan election, nonpartisan, and appointment by local officials (such as in Municipal Courts).

For those courts/counties that use partisan judicial elections, HB 1494 / SB 1063 would end them in favor of nonpartisan judicial races. In those races, incumbents would have the right to have their name first on the ballot.

Several other bills have been introduced with a county-specific focus.
HB 1183 / SB 990 would focus on judicial races and require they be nonpartisan in Shelby and Davidson Counties along with local legislative races.

SB 411 has the same end (nonpartisan judicial and legislative races in Shelby and Davison) but with slightly different language that includes the incumbent-name-first aspect of HB 1494 / SB 1063.


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