Pennsylvania voters going to the polls Tuesday expressed their preferences for the U.S. Senate and House, governor, state legislators and state party committee members. But not judges. This is an off-year for judicial elections.
Even when state judicial races are in full swing, however, a lot of otherwise informed voters have little or no idea who's running. That's one reason many people -- including five former Pennsylvania governors -- think the state should switch to merit selection of judges. Another reason is the incidence of corruption in the appellate courts.
Under merit selection, applicants for state Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts would be reviewed by a panel of bipartisan people, lawyer and nonlawyers, which would make recommendations for appointment by the governor and confirmation by the state Senate.
Appointing judges wouldn't remove politics from the process, but it would end candidates seeking campaign cash from from special interests, and guessing games in the voting booth.
Supporters of judicial elections say letting the voters decide is still better, arguing that appointment places partisan preference in the hands of the governor and the majority party in the Legislature.
Changing the system would require a state constitutional amendment. One thing wouldn't change: County judges and magisterial judges would still be elected by local voters.
What do you think? Is appointing judges, as New Jersey and most other states do, a better way to get a qualified judiciary?
Click here to vote in the poll at Lancaster Online.
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Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to ensuring that all Pennsylvanians can come to our courts with confidence that they will be heard by qualified, fair, and impartial judges
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