NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Voters have approved a change to the Tennessee Constitution that enshrines merit selection for appeals judges and Supreme Court justices while giving the Legislature some power over the process.
The constitution has said that Supreme Court justices “shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.” But since 1994, they have been appointed by the governor. Voters then decide whether to keep or replace them in uncontested retention elections.
The same system has been in place for other appellate judges since 1971. But merit selection has been challenged repeatedly as a violation of the constitution.
The amendment now writes the system into the constitution with an additional provision that gives the Legislature the power to reject a nominee.
Late, almost-complete returns showed a yes vote of 831,125 for the amendment, about 61 percent, and a no vote of 533,297, or 39 percent. (It appears the gubernatorial race will draw close to 1.4 million votes, meaning an amendment needs about 700,000 votes to meet the requirement of a majority of votes cast in the governor’s race.)
Statement from Vote Yes on 2 campaign committee:
Nashville, Tenn.—On the heels of the Tennessee general election, Vote YES on 2 campaign chair Governor Bill Haslam released the following statement:
“The voters’ approval of Amendment 2 brings clarity, certainty and accountability to the way we select our appellate court judges in Tennessee.
“I am grateful to Governor Bredesen, Senator Thompson and so many others for their bipartisan leadership on this important issue. I am also grateful to people across the state that went to the polls to vote. With Amendment 2, the voters have made clear they want fair and impartial judges held accountable to the people of Tennessee, and I look forward to working with the General Assembly on its implementation.” .