In South Dakota, circuit court judges are elected without a political affiliation next to their names.
Supreme Court justices, who are appointed by the governor, don’t advertise their political parties either. And when they appear on the ballot for judicial retention (the first general election 3+ years after appointment, then every 8 years after), their party registration is not listed.
But should the state Democratic or Republican parties be barred from endorsing a judicial candidate? Hmmm.
House Bill 1072 would repeal the South Dakota statute that makes it a misdemeanor “for any political party to endorse or nominate by any convention, or other method, any candidate for judicial office.”
That is to say, if the bill passes, such an endorsement would no longer be a crime.
I don’t know the background on the bill except that the judiciary committee introduced it on behalf of Chief Justice David Gilbertson.
The bill got me curious about the political affiliations of our justices. It turns out, according to voter registration records, that one of the most powerful people in state government is a registered Democrat.
David Gilbertson, Democrat (appointed by Gov. Bill Janklow in 1995)
John Konenkamp, Republican (Gov. Walter Dale Miller, 1994)
Steven Zinter, Republican (Janklow, 2002)
Glen Severson, Republican (Gov. Mike Rounds, 2009)
Lori Wilbur, Republican (Gov. Dennis Daugaard, 2011)
Incidentally, all five justices voted absentee last fall.
Here’s an explainer on how judges/justices get their jobs.