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Government Ethics
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A judge ruled this week that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has the authority to appoint someone to fill a judicial vacancy that does not yet exist.

Kemp's judicial election cancellation heads to Georgia appeals court

The two politicians who want to be candidates for the next opening on Georgia's highest court are appealing a judge's ruling that there doesn't have to be an election.

Their trips to the courthouse Wednesday and Thursday are the latest moves in what has rapidly become a flashpoint in the world of good governance: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp's declaration that he, not the voters, will decide how to fill a not-yet-empty seat on the state Supreme Court.

The law seems to have provisions supporting him as well as those desiring the special election the governor has called off. But the reality is that Kemp's motives are under heightened suspicion since he narrowly won the governorship in 2018 amid evidence that, as secretary of state, he was complicit in an array of voter suppression efforts.

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Steven Denny (left) is leading Larry Doss by 319 votes in a Texas judicial race, but the state needs to hold a do-over.

What happens when two Texas counties forget to put a race on the ballot

At a time when confidence in elections is sagging, a particularly odd snafu in Texas this month won't help.

A virtually tied election for a spot on a regional appeals court will have to be conducted again — because officials in two counties under the court's jurisdiction did not put the contest on the ballot.

The election administrators in Cochran and Collingsworth counties, in the rural panhandle of north Texas, both filed papers this week admitting to a shared oversight and insisting they did not intentionally exclude the race from a long roster of federal and state contests March 3.

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Balance of Power

"Why I have to work so hard to get on the ballot for what should already be a nonpartisan position is ridiculous," wrote Tiffany Lesnik, an independent judicial candidate in Raleigh.

Two parties squelch outsiders in N.C. judicial elections

People who aspire to judgeships in North Carolina but don't want to run on a party line are facing strict new rules and tight deadlines.

The tougher burdens, which only apply to non-affiliated candidates, are part of the state's comprehensive return this fall to partisan elections for judges. Good-government groups say that filling the bench this way is hardly the best option for getting the most qualified and fair people administering justice or for instilling public confidence in the court system.

In fact, the Tar Heel State is bucking the trend as many more states have abandoned partisan judicial elections in recent years than have adopted them. This year, North Carolina is among just 11 states picking all their judges this way. All but a handful of the other states have nonpartisan elections or allow voters to retain or dismiss judges first appointed by their governors.

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Dark money flowing fastest into state judicial races, analysts find

Special-interest groups, many with donors the public never knows about, continued to play an outsized role in the financing of elections for state Supreme Courts across the country, a new analysis finds.

More than $39.7 million was spent on four dozen contests for seats on the top courts in 21 states last year, and 27 percent of the money was contributed by advocacy organizations allowed by state and federal laws to keep secret the identities of their benefactors. The calculation was unveiled Wednesday by the Brennan Center for Justice, which advocates for tougher campaign finance regulation and many other causes on the left side of the democracy reform debate.

By comparison, in no election during the past two decades have these so-called "dark money" organizations accounted for more than 19 percent of all spending in races for Congress.

The lack of donor transparency has the obvious potential to obscure all sorts of conflicts of interest for the justices on state Supreme Courts, who have the final say annually on litigation directing billions of dollars into corporate coffers and consumers' wallets. And, the Brennan Center wrote, it also undermines the public's confidence in state judicial systems maintaining their impartiality.

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