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Iowa voters make the right choice

November 8, 2012
Messenger News

Political activists unhappy with a unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that a statute prohibiting same-sex civil marriages is unconstitutional showed their displeasure by removing the three justices who were on the ballot in 2010.

A similar effort this year failed to oust Justice David Wiggins.

More than 54 percent of Iowa voters cast their ballots in favor of retention Tuesday.

For proponents of judicial independence and integrity in Iowa, this is good news indeed.

In 1962, Iowa adopted a system for selecting judges that is designed to maximize the quality of jurists while keeping the appointment and retention process free of politics.

Nonpartisan selection commissions review the qualifications of potential judges and forward to the appointing official or body recommended finalists. In the case of justices of the Iowa Supreme Court and District courts, the governor makes the final choice.

Periodically, voters are afforded the chance to vote on whether or not judges should remain in office.

Thanks in part to the demagoguery of Sioux City businessman and perennial candidate Bob Vander Plaats, judicial retention elections for justices are viewed by some voters as a referendum on whether same-sex marriages should be legal in Iowa.

During a visit to Fort Dodge Sept. 26, Vander Plaats railed against Wiggins and fellow justices "legislating from the bench," implying that the same-sex marriage decision would be the first of a series of assaults on the rights of Iowans.


The recall mechanism was intended as a way to remove jurists who have proved exceptionally flawed. It was not designed to be a referendum on any particular judicial decision.

With the vote to retain Wiggins, Iowa has taken a large step toward returning to this intelligent design.



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