State supreme court elections often fall under the radar, but issues like redistricting and the overturning of Roe v. Wade are raising their profile as we approach the 2022 midterm elections. As Politico explained:
Thirty states have or will hold state Supreme Court elections this year, in a combination of traditional elections or a retention vote — an up-or-down vote to decide if a judge should stay on the bench. And some of the biggest state Supreme Court contests this year map alongside traditional battlegrounds, like Michigan and North Carolina, while others creep into redder or bluer territory. . .
Since the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2019 that the federal judiciary had no role in policing partisan gerrymandering, state Supreme Courts have increasingly weighed in — often throwing out Republican-drawn maps in states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, but also dealing big blows to Democrats in New York.
And the Supreme Court’s recent decision that kicked abortion policy back to the states has also turned up the heat on state Supreme Court races.
The Washington Post added:
In recent years, issues such as abortion and gun control have made judicial elections more political and polarizing, said Richard Briffault, an election law expert and professor at Columbia Law School.
“My guess is some combination of the 2020 election and all the focus on election decisions, and now Roe and Dobbs and maybe some stuff on gun-control legislation, where the Supreme Court has put them in the news, so you’re likely to see them contested in state elections,” Briffault said.
The ultra-liberal Daily Kos outlines exactly how consequential the results of these elections could be:
In Michigan and North Carolina, Democrats hold narrow 4-3 majorities in both cases. Maintaining those majorities is of vital importance, because if Republicans take over those courts, they'll be eager to roll back landmark decisions. Two examples from just this year alone stand out: In February, North Carolina's top court struck down GOP gerrymanders for violating the state constitution and implemented much fairer maps, while just three weeks ago, the Michigan Supreme Court found that existing state law prohibits companies from firing workers or discriminating against customers due to their sexual orientation.
In Ohio, it's Republicans who have a 4-3 majority, but one relatively moderate Republican justice has repeatedly sided with Democrats to rule against GOP gerrymanders there. However, she's retiring, so if we don't pick up a seat and Republicans elect a typical ultra-conservative, those rulings will go out the window, too. What's more, come 2024, Republicans will once again try to steal the election if it doesn't go their way. State supreme courts will be crucial bulwarks against allowing that to happen.
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