CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The head of a group which fought hard to change the judicial election process in West Virginia admitted Thursday there is an irony to this year’s state Supreme Court race. The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce led the charge to make judicial elections in West Virginia non-partisan. A big catalyst which fueled their effort was a longstanding rivalry between the Chamber and Darrell McGraw who formerly served as both a Supreme Court justice and the state Attorney General.
Now, McGraw is one of the five candidates seeking a 12 year term on the high court and may benefit from the non-partisan ballot. To win a candidate in the five-way race, realistically would only need 21 percent of the vote and not a majority of West Virginians’ support.
“There is an irony here. The irony is inescapable,” said Roberts during a Thursday appearance on Metronews Talkline. “But the election hasn’t been held yet, in fact early voting hasn’t even begun.”
Regardless of the outcome of the first non-partisan judicial election, Roberts added it’s still the right way to do things.
“Getting the politics out of the judiciary, most other states have done that,” said Roberts. “Even if I don’t particularly like the outcome of an election, one election does not a state make and one election does not a business climate make. Every election is important and every vote is important.”
The change came when the Republican majority took control of the House and Senate. However, the final outcome of the legislation allowed for the highest vote getter on the judicial ballot during the spring primary to be the victor. Critics believe it’s bad policy to allow a justice for a 12 year term on the Supreme Court to be elected without majority support. This year’s race could realistically feature a winner who barely garnered more than 20 percent of the vote.
“There are states that figured this out in the past and that’s why they have a system where everybody who wants can run in the primary and then only the top finishers go on to the general,” said Roberts. “It certainly merits a discussion.”
But, for this year anyway, the die is cast and the final outcome will hinge on the May 10th results as to who will be the Supreme Court justice for the next dozen years.