On Tuesday, November 6, Kansans will head to the polls to elect a new governor, four U.S. Representatives, four statewide officials, one state senator and 125 Kansas representatives. These races— especially for governor—will dominate our televisions, radios and mailboxes for the next six weeks. Most of the campaign money will be spent on the nine statewide races, and your individual districts will see thousands of dollars used on local races. What probably won’t get much attention this year is those other candidates down ballot: candidates for court of appeals judges and district court judges—even some individuals running for magistrate judge spots.
Kansas uses three methods to select its judges. The Kansas Supreme Court and over half of all district court judges are picked using the merit selection process. The court of appeals judges are selected using a modified appoint/confirm process, leaving the remainder to be selected via partisan elections in their local jurisdictions. While the selection process differs significantly (Kansas is the only state that uses all three processes) they have one thing in common: to keep your seat, you must appear on the general election ballot. In partisan election districts, a judge may have to face off against an opponent. In districts using the merit selection process, a judge must sit for retention. Either way, to stay on the bench, judges must face the citizens of Kansas and get their votes. See: http://www.kscourts.org/kansas-courts/district-courts/process.asp
Elections of judges in Kansas are very similar to elections for any other office. There is a primary in which the individual with the most votes advances to the general election to face off against the winner from the other party. The winner of the general election takes the bench with a four-year term, after which the process repeats itself.
This year the following districts will hold partisan judicial elections:
Some districts provide information on the judges. For instance, in the 18th Judicial District (Sedgwick County), the Wichita Eagle and the Wichita Bar Association do an online survey every two years. They provide the results via website. This year’s survey can be found at: https://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/judging-the-judges/.
In retention elections, district judges do not compete against an opponent; rather, voters have the option to vote “yes” to retain or “no” to remove from the bench. To keep the seat ,the judge must receive a majority of “yes” votes. If the judge receives a majority of “no” votes, the position becomes vacant.
The 10th Judicial District also provides voter information on judges sitting for retention in that district. The Johnson County Bar Association puts together judicial evaluations by surveying over 2,000 Johnson County lawyers. The results can be found at: https://www.jocobar.org/page/judicialevals2018
Kansas Court of Appeals judges must sit for retention every four years (six years for Kansas Supreme Court Justices). The process is staggered so only seven court of appeals judges face retention each election. As in district judge retention elections, voters have the option to vote “yes” to retain or “no” to remove from the bench. The only difference is, the entire state gets to decide on court of appeals judges.
You can view who is running for Kansas Court of Appeals judge, district court judge or District magistrate judge here: http://www.kssos.org/elections/elections_upcoming_candidate_display.asp
These races are essential to our system of justice, so please take a few more minutes to fill out these down ballot races.