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Judicial elections need voter attention

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When Mississippi voters go to cast a ballot on Tuesday, November 6th  they will be voting not only in the U.S. Senate and Congressional races but will decide who they want to hand down justice in the courtroom.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann likened the branches of government -executive, legislative, and judicial – to a three-legged stool saying that the only way it is stable is when all of the branches are doing their job. Hosemann added that voting for judges is important as they will be making decisions ranging from prison sentencing to family matters.

“Judges and law enforcement protect other citizens by going through the judiciary and it’s all determined by the ballot box,” Hosemann said. “These individuals can determine whether you are liable for a car wreck, or whether you’re liable to go to prison and that’s really important.”

While there has been much coverage of the two U.S. Senate races, Hosemann said the judicial races have largely gone unnoticed due to the judicial candidates being unable to raise funds for a campaign.

“The judiciary is not allowed to raise money, they have groups of other individuals, a lot of them would be businessmen and women, and lawyers, but judges don’t accept any kind of a contribution from anyone,” Hosemann said. “Because of this, they obviously don’t raise much money… Most of the time judicial races, because they are not allowed to receive money directly are very low impact races. You don’t see a lot of advertising, things in the paper or on TV most of their work is done by individual contacts and by individuals who believe in their judicial demeanor, going out and campaigning for them.”

However, Hosemann said even though the judicial races have gotten less attention they are by no means any less important.

“Our chancery judges have the ability to work hard on family matters, divorces and who gets custody of the children, how the assets are split from an estate, they have to have a tremendous amount of judgment whether a child will be raised by the mother, or the father, or neither. That takes a very caring person to be able to make those decisions on a daily basis.

Circuit judges try the criminal matters and are required to give the defendants the right to a fair trial and the right to face their accuser as well as determine sentencing.

“Conservatives want judges at every level who view their job as interpreting the law that has been passed, not trying to force their own policy positions into a statute,” said Mississippi GOP Chairman Lucien Smith “The party and the conservative movement support judges who are going to judge that way and it’s important that people think carefully about who they cast a ballot for.”

A Mississippi Supreme Court Justice along with judges from the Court of Appeals, the Chancery and Circuit Courts will be on the ballot.

There are also a number of judges who are running unopposed on the ballot. Something that Hosemann said is common for judges who have been in the position for a number of years.

“If they have shown what they call ‘judicial temperament’ which means fairness, to everybody then the incumbents are not challenged that often,” said Hosemann.

He added that those who are running in a multi-candidate race it is often due to there being an open seat. To view a full sample ballot click here.

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