2020 Elections: The State Supreme Courts

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Highlighted states have a Supreme Court election coming up in 2020

Did you know you might be voting for the next Supreme Court justice? It’s true! Besides the U.S. Supreme Court, every state has its own state Supreme Court, and most of them are elected seats. That puts YOU in charge.

But before I tell you about these extremely important 2020 races, let’s take one moment to celebrate the Democrats flipping a state Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin last week! Yes, that travesty of an election where the Wisconsin GOP refused to move the primary or expand absentee voting and forced voters to vote in-person in the middle of the pandemic. They did all that trying to protect a state Supreme Court seat that was up for re-election. But we flipped it! Congratulations Judge Jill Karofsky!

This year, 35 states will be holding elections for state Supreme Court seats. It is critical that you take a little time to understand who the candidates are, and I need to warn you, if you’re not used to thinking about these judicial seats, it will take a bit more work. But I’m here to help. The make up of these higher courts in our states is just too important.

What do state Supreme Courts do?

Simply put, state Supreme Courts correct any errors that occur in lower courts. That’s all it does — listens to appeals of decisions from inferior state courts.

In many states, their Supreme Court plays a role in deciding on any challenges to redistricting maps that are drawn, an exercise every state will be undergoing at the start of next year. Also, they are the ones that rule on matters of law with voting rights, or election laws, and more. And far too many ideological conservative judges are sitting on these benches.

How do I know what party a candidate belongs to?

Many judicial elections are nonpartisan, i.e. the candidates don’t declare what party they are affiliated with. (There are exceptions.) If you think about it, it makes sense. Judges are supposed to be impartial; their job is to uphold the law. And that is the very thing you’ll be looking for when you start evaluating the candidates — are they known for being impartial or is there evidence in their background that indicates the opposite?

As evidenced by the U.S. Senate and Mitch McConnell’s conveyor belt of judges he’s gotten confirmed, the Republicans clearly want ideological partisans to become judges. The more ideological a candidate is, the more you’ll be able to determine their political leaning by who endorses them and who is helping to fund their campaign.

FACT: 24 states currently have an all-white supreme court bench, including eight states in which people of color are at least a quarter of the state’s general population. Source

Start by checking any voter guides that the state or local/county bar association publishes about the race. They are a wealth of information. The League of Women Voters in your state is also another good nonpartisan organization to check with, as they publish voter guides that cover judicial elections.

Which states have Supreme Court elections this year?

The map at the head of this post highlights all the states with an election this year. If your state is highlighted, go to THIS PAGE at Ballotpedia, scroll down to find your state and click on it. All the information about your election will be listed. They’ll tell you how many seats are up for election, who the candidates are, and so much more.

How you can help

Once you know which judge you want to vote for, help raise awareness of their candidacy. Be sure to follow them on social media and share information about their campaigns on your accounts, as well as how people can donate to their campaigns.

Keep an eye out for postcarding campaigns to help these elections at sites like Postcards for Voters.

Get involved with a texting campaign to register voters in your and/or turn them out on election day. There are several organizations that run texting campaigns, but I can personally vouch for Open Progress and can attest to how great their program works.

Thank you for paying attention to these important races!

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