A heated campaign is under way in Iowa, where conservatives hope to unseat three of the state's Supreme Court justices following a ruling last year that cleared the way for same-sex marriage.
Judges in Iowa are appointed, not elected. And the periodic "yes or no" ballot questions on whether to keep them on the bench are usually low-key affairs. But in several states, anger over recent court decisions is turning the normally sleepy judicial elections — known as retention votes — into pitched battles.
Iowa chief justice Marsha Ternus, one of the targets of the anti-retention campaign, spoke at Iowa State, saying
"that efforts to unseat justices because of last year's gay-marriage ruling are an attempt to intimidate judges and force the opponents' political beliefs on the courts." A spokesman for the group Iowa for Freedom, which is leading the effort to unseat the judges, responded
: "We want people on the bench who respect and follow the Constitution, not legislate from the bench, execute from the bench and try to amend the very document they took an oath protect."
So, is this a proper use of the judicial retention ballot? To remove judges who make unpopular decisions rather than weeding out the corrupt or incompetent? Are judicial elections even a good idea?