Supreme Court Retention Vote This Fall

Iowa Supreme Court Building. Credit:

A big shout out to for exposing a quiet portion of the coming election here in Iowa. As they note this November not only will there be the usual elections for offices there will also be what is a little quirk in Iowa’s process to cast a YAY or NAY on a couple of Iowa’s current Supreme Court members.

Usually this almost a perfunctory vote since few citizens follow what courts do in general. But this year due to a convergence of several story lines, this judicial retention vote may produce an unexpected consequence.

The first story line is that the current governor, Kim Reynolds is not wildly popular in the state. The last polling I have seen has her approval numbers under 50% which is a very bad indicator. The poll also had her opponent, Diedre DeJear only a couple of points behind.

The second story line is that the US Supreme Court made a truly unpopular decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed women the right to make their own medical decisions for themselves, including the choice to have an abortion. The decision on the legality of abortions has been put back on the states. Kim Reynolds has been openly and loudly supportive of this decision.

However, Iowans in general and women in particular in Iowa favor their right to make their own choices. The most recent poll I could find for Iowa was from last September. 

 Things may have changed, but I bet not that much. 

The third story line is that Iowa’s Supreme Court is almost fully Republican appointed. This is quite an unbalance especially since Reynolds signed a bill that gave the governor more power in picking the justice nominating commission. Many people might like to see balance restored. As it is now Iowa’s Supreme Court seems to be built to be a rubber stamp for the legislature and the governor instead of being a place to appeal an injustice.

In this particular vote, Justices Dana Oxley and Matthew McDermott are up for the retention vote. Both voted to reverse Iowa’s Supreme Court ruling on abortion. 

Iowans may remember a retention vote from 2010 when the radical right pushed to have justices removed because of the Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. From the iowastartingline story:

When judicial spots open up in Iowa, a nonpartisan commission studies the credentials of different Iowa lawyers who were nominated for the position. The commission then nominates the individuals it finds most qualified.

For the supreme court, the state judicial nominating commission nominates three people for the governor, who then makes the final decision.

After serving a full year, each judge and justice faces a retention election where Iowans vote “yes” or “no” about whether a justice should remain on the bench. A majority of “yes” votes allow a judge to serve a full term.

The last time Iowa Supreme Court justices were removed through a retention vote was in 2010, following conservative activists’ organizing a “no” vote campaign in response to the court legalizing gay marriage.

So here you go Iowa. Vote Kim Reynolds out. Replace her with a governor – Diedre DeJear – who respects women’s rights to make their own medical and personal decisions. Then also vote ‘NO’ to retain Justices Oxley and McDermott and give the new governor a chance to reshape Iowa’s very right leaning Supreme Court. 

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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