An item on page 2 of Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal bills an upcoming forum on merit selection as a discussion on "whether Wisconsin should deprive its citizens [of] the opportunity to elect their state Supreme Court justices."
The phrasing casts merit selection as a net loss for democracy. That contradicts the argument made forcefully and often on the paper's editorial page, which crusades for this change.
In fact, most justices and judges are not elected, but rather are appointed by the governor to fill midterm vacancies, making these picks far more political than the merit-selection alternative. And, once appointed, few judges ever face an electoral challenge.
For instance, this April Dane County residents will vote on seven circuit court judge seats, more than a third of the total. This includes four judges (Amy Smith, Nicholas McNamara, Stephen Ehlke and Peter Anderson) who were appointed by the governor within the last few months. A grand total of none of the races is contested.
The idea of judicial elections is mostly a myth. The State Journal's editorial department knows it; it's time to notify the news department.