Louisiana plans to remove political party affiliation for judicial elections

Louisiana could ban political party affiliation from being listed next to judicial nominees on ballots if Rep. Kyle Green’s D-Marrero legislation passes.

The Louisiana House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs voted 9-3 Wednesday in favor of Green’s House Bill 206. Democrats and Republicans backed the proposal which is now heading to the full House for consideration.

Green, an attorney, said he doesn’t think political party should be a primary factor in selecting a judge. Rather, voters should rely on the candidate’s critical thinking skills and disposition.

Green said those who really want to know a judge’s political party affiliation could still find that information online, even if it’s not on the ballot.

The three committee members who voted against Green’s legislation are conservative Republicans: Representatives Dodie Horton of Houghton, Polly Thomas of Metairie and Valarie Hodges of Denham Springs. Horton said she sees political affiliation as intrinsic to who a person is and as crucial information people should have in the voting booth.

Not all of the Republicans on the committee shared Horton’s view. Committee chairman John Stefanski of Crowley said he had spoken to several judges he respected – both conservatives and liberals – who did not think bench members should be associated with a political party. Stefanski, a lawyer who plans to run for attorney general, voted for the bill.

Several other states do not list the political affiliation of candidates on ballots for judges and other positions, including school board seats. In some cases, the major political parties still endorse specific candidates in those states and hand out flyers to voters at polling places indicating who their preferred candidates are.

If implemented, the ballot change would incur an estimated one-time cost of $68,000. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office said they would have to pay someone to update their computer systems with the change.

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