Judicial Retention Elections in the States

In a retention election, judges run unopposed. Voters are asked whether the judge should be retained in office, and in most states, a simple majority vote is required for retention. Retention elections are most often associated with the commission-based appointment process called for in the O’Connor Judicial Selection Plan. In 15 such states, judges stand in retention elections for subsequent terms.

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

In three states where judges are initially chosen in partisan elections, judges stand in retention elections for subsequent terms.

  • Illinois
  • New Mexico
  • Pennsylvania

In California, where the governor appoints all appellate court judges, and in Kansas, where the governor appoints intermediate appellate court judges, judges stand in retention elections for subsequent terms.

In Montana, if a judge seeking reelection is unopposed, s/he stands in a retention election instead.

 

Components of the O'Connor Judicial Selection Plan:

Judicial Nominating Commission

How It Works | States with Nominating Commissions

Gubernatorial Appointment

How It Works | States with Gubernatorial Appointment

Judicial Performance Evaluation

How It Works | States with Performance Evaluation

Retention Election

How It Works | States with Retention Elections