Judges praise end of ‘herd’ elections

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Area circuit court judges hailed the recent passage of a billthat will change the way they are chosen for office.

The 14th Circuit Court District is among several districtsaffected by Senate Bill 2339, which addresses circuit and chancerycourt redistricting and elimination of the herd system for electingjudges.

“I was real happy to see it pass,” said Judge Mike Smith. “Thatwas the only right thing to do.”

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Under the herd system, all candidates ran for two judicial postsand the top vote-getters were declared the winners. Under the newsystem, Smith and Judge Mike Taylor will each be assigned a “place”and challengers will decide which judge to oppose.

“We’ll be able to run for posts, and I think it will be morefair for the candidates and less confusing for voters,” Taylorsaid.

Dist. 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, said there had beenseveral efforts over the last 10 to 12 years to change from theherd system to the post system. With judicial redistricting thisyear, he indicated the time was right for a change.

“I’m glad we were able to make it happen,” Moak said. “I thinkthose in office want to run on their own record and voters can maketheir decisions on that person.”

Pending approval of the U.S. Department of Justice, the changeis expected to be in effect for the 2006 elections. Under theVoting Rights Act, a federal review is needed to ensure the changedoes not disenfranchise voters.

“That will be its final step,” Moak said.

Taylor said he expected no problems with federal pre-clearance.He pointed out that judges will still be elected in an at-largemanner involving all voters in the three-county district.

Smith expressed similar thoughts. He said judicial electionswere not a racial issue in any of the counties.

“I think people will vote for the best man, black or white,”Smith said.