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Locals Debate Question 1 in Greene County

With Election Day just around the corner, there’s one issue we’ve yet to profile. KSMU’s Kristian Kriner has more on Question 1.
Question 1 will ask voters whether residents of Greene County should adopt The Non-Partisan Court Plan as a method of selecting local county judges.

The Non-Partisan Court Plan, also known as the Missouri Plan, allows a commission to select three candidates for the governor to choose from.

Right now, Greene County residents vote directly for their judges.

Supporters of the Non-Partisan Court Plan say passing Question 1 will bring impartiality to local courtrooms.

But opponents of the plan say there’s nothing non-partisan about it.

Larry Russell is the treasurer for the "Vote No on Question 1" group in Springfield.

“Non-partisan--that sounds real good, but when you look at it and you understand that the Appellate commission which picks the judges for the Appellate Court and the Supreme Court has three commissioners who are current or former member’s commissioners of MATA, and MATA being the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys,” Russell said.

Conservatives say this organization of trial attorneys leans heavily Democrat.

As a consequence, they say the commission that chooses judicial candidates is biased.

On the other side, those who intend to vote "Yes" on Question 1, say Greene County residents will be able to vote to retain the judges, after they have been in office for period of time.

Chip Sheppard is a co-chairperson of "Greene Countians for Fair and Impartial Judges."

He says if a commission chooses the judges, then that saves the candidates from campaigning on a specific party ticket.

“We really need merit selection, because judges should not be politicians who have to go out and campaign to win votes. They take an oath to not be swayed by the political wind or to be affected by public opinion. They take an oath to follow the law, and if you want to get away from judges who don’t follow the law, then you need to get away from judges who are politicians,” Sheppard said.

The Non-Partisan Court Plan is already implemented as a method of selecting judges at the Supreme Court, the Appellate Court level, and in a few urban counties.

On Tuesday, voters in Greene County will decide whether to also implement it here.

Greene County resident and former US Attorney General John Ashcroft has said he will vote "No" on Question 1.

For KSMU News, I’m Kristian Kriner.