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End of Partisan Elections

End of Partisan Elections

1929 -- END OF "AT LARGE" ELECTIONS TO SUPREME COURT


1931 -- END OF PARTISAN JUDICIAL ELECTIONS FOR ALL COURTS

 

As noted in the discussion of the 1914 election campaign, judicial department elections were partisan, and candidates for judicial office -- Supreme Court, circuit court, and district court -- were listed on the ballot by their political party.1 Additionally, justices of the Supreme Court were elected at large, meaning that every candidate competed for every open position on the Supreme Court.2 But both of those things changed in the Depression Era.

 

In 1929 the Legislature ended "at-large" elections for Supreme Court justice.3 The Legislature assigned position numbers to all of the sitting justices on the Supreme Court, and all future candidates would compete only for an identified position number.4

 

The last partisan election for judge occurred in 1930, when Republican challenger James U. Campbell unseated Democratic incumbent Justice Oliver Perry Coshow for a position on the Supreme Court. Justice Coshow had been the only Democrat on the Court at the time, and his defeat left the Court entirely Republican.5 The very next year, the Legislature enacted a law making all judicial elections nonpartisan.6

 

Nonpartisan judicial elections, and election to the Supreme Court by position number, remain incorporated into the statutes today.7

 

Footnotes

FN1. Sherry Smith, An Historical Sketch of Oregon's Supreme Court, 55 Or L Rev 85, 91-92 (1976).
FN2. Id. at 96.
FN3. Or Laws 1929, ch 241; see Smith, 55 Or L Rev at 92 (so noting).
FN4. Or Laws 1929, ch 241.
FN5. Smith, 55 Or L Rev at 92.
FN6. Or Laws 1931, ch 347.
FN7. See ORS 2.040 (retaining position numbers for Supreme Court justices assigned in 1929); ORS 254.005(8) ("'Nonpartisan office' means the office of judge of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, circuit court or the Oregon Tax Court...")

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