Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Why vote when the system is twisted?

I voted yesterday, though I'm not sure why. The only race on the ballot was a state Supreme Court contest with four candidates. I knew very little about any of them, and I was left to wonder once again why we vote for judges. "I want my vote heard," say proponents. "The right to vote is sacred." But what good does it do you to vote when you don't know anything about the candidates?

Each time someone defends voting for judges, I ask him or her to name the judicial candidates on the ballot. Can't do that? Then name the last judge you voted for. Can't do that? Then what good was your voting? You may as well draw names out of a hat.

There is a better way: Have state judges appointed by the governor, perhaps with advice and consent of legislators, from a list of qualified candidates vetted by the State Bar. Reserve for the public the right to recall judges before their terms expire and the right to approve or disapprove of judges (and thereby remove them) in a referendum at the end of a six-year or eight-year term. This system would preserve public influence without the corrosive effects of judges begging for and potentially being influenced by campaign donations.

While we're fixing elections, let's fix the corrupt system of allowing legislators to gerrymander their own electoral districts. This system has given us a Congress and state legislators in which few incumbents face serious opposition and where many incumbents face no opponents at all. The districts are rigged by legislative redistricting. A couple of states have taken legislators' manipulative options away and turned redistricting over the non-partisan commissions with mandates to create compact, impartial districts without regard to their impact on incumbents' future electability. A bill to do the same in North Carolina has been sent to committee, where it will assuredly die without ever being considered. Fixing redistricting would go far in fixing the impasses in Washington and the animosity between the far wings of both parties.

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