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Raising the Bar On Court Elections

The last time West Virginians elected state Supreme Court justices, the two winners received only fractions of the total vote. Justice Tim Armstead was the choice of 26% of voters in his race. Justice Evan Jenkins was picked by 36%.

What gives? In the Armstead and Jenkins races, each one featured 10 candidates in nonpartisan balloting. As a result, no one gained majority support from voters.

State legislators are considering a change. A bill in the House of Delegates would change the way high court justices are elected. It stipulates that in multi-candidate races, the winner must receive at least 40% of the total vote.

If that does not happen, the top two vote-getters would have to face each other in a runoff election.

It appears the change — if enacted — could take effect in time for the Supreme Court election in May. Two justices are to be selected.

Legislators should approve the bill, HB 2008, and Gov. Jim Justice should sign it into law. Raising the vote bar for election to the state’s highest court would improve the public’s confidence in the system — something we clearly need to strive for in West Virginia.

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