By Carmen Forman | Arizona Capitol Times
This election cycle, Coconino County became the first Arizona county to voluntarily switch to a merit selection system for choosing judges.
Voters approved a proposition to switch to the merit-based system Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties already use, which will allow Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and governors who follow him to appoint judges in the Democratic-leaning county in northern Arizona.
With the passage of Proposition 416, Coconino County voters will no longer elect their judges directly, but will get to decide if appointed judges should be retained.
Arizona’s Constitution stipulates that counties with a population greater than 250,000 are required to choose judges through merit selection, but Coconino County voters voluntarily opted into the merit selection process after one Democratic judge led the charge for change.
Coconino County Superior Court Judge Dan Slayton said he has always felt uncomfortable about judges running as members of political parties because it can disenfranchise voters from the minority party.
“I just don’t think judges should run on a political ticket and run for a popularity contest,” he said.