CHARLESTON — A bill would change how state Supreme Court justices are elected.
House Bill 2008 was introduced Jan. 8 on the first day of the 2020 legislative session. It would require at least one Supreme Court candidate to receive 40 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan election which takes place during the statewide primary election.
If no candidate hits that threshold, the bill would require a runoff election to take place during the fall general election.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the proposal Jan. 9, amending it to include this year’s election. It then was sent to the House Finance Committee.
Delegate and Speaker Pro Tempore Daryl Cowles (R-Morgan) is the lead sponsor of the bill.
“The genesis of the bill is to try to improve public confidence that the end result of the election is someone that a good number of people have voted for and make sure that our choice for the Supreme Court of Appeals is someone that enjoys public support and is a legitimate representative of the people,” he told MetroNews.
He told MetroNews 40 percent is “a sizable number.”
“If there’s three or four candidates and one of them gets a solid vote of 40-plus, I think that’s certainly good confidence from the voters that that’s their selection,” Cowles said.
In 2015, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill making West Virginia’s judicial elections nonpartisan for the first time. In the first such elections in 2016, Beth Walker defeated incumbent Justice Brent Benjamin as well as former Justice and Attorney General Darrell McGraw.
Before 2016, all West Virginia judicial elections were partisan.
In an interview with The West Virginia Record about the 2020 legislative session, state Senate President Mitch Carmichael said he is in favor of some sort of runoff for judicial elections.