What is a judicial retention election?

Category: Judical Election FAQs

Judicial retention elections are a process in which voters decide whether or not to retain judges on the bench. Judges are not initially selected for a term using this election method.

The main purpose of retention elections is to determine whether or not a judge should be retained for another term. The election process includes a review of the judge’s qualifications and performance, as well as an evaluation of the judge’s experience and suitability for office.

Retention elections are nonpartisan. Judges standing for retention do not run “against” anyone; instead, they run to retain their positions, based on their performance in office. Judges are not allowed to actively campaign to stay in office unless they have an opposing candidate.

In Alaska, for example, the State Constitution requires a vote for sitting judges to be remain in office. Judges appear on general election ballot in even-numbered years. A judge remains in their position for another term if they get a majority of votes.