This year, judges are no longer required to run for their position – affiliated with a political party – such as a Republican or Democrat.
Paula Dunford is in charge of voter registration in Greenbrier County. She believes the new system brings a positive change. “That gives you the opportunity to vote for the person rather than the party,” she says.
She believes, based on registration information, nonpartisan judge races should bring more people to the polls to vote.
“There’s been a lot of non-party and independent voters. Approximately we have 25,000 registered active voters in Greenbrier county, and 6,000 of those voters are independent and no party” says Dunford.
Dunford says the judges seats are instead broken up in to divisions. In Circuit Court there are two divisions, and in Magistrate there are three.
That division is done at the state level.
Judge James Rowe says that by rule, judges have to remain nonpartisan in the courtroom, which is why he is in favor of the new voting system.
“I have long advocated for a nonpartisan election of judges for that very reason, to remove, as much as you can, the politics out of the equation,” says Rowe.
Judge Rowe says that with a primary election no longer in place, a judge may be elected by a very small percentage of the vote- if there are a number of candidates running. That was one of the only downfalls he believes the new system has.
The election of new judges will now happen in May.