Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Will "Vote No" Campaign on Justice David's Retention Show New Social Media Can Replace Traditional Political Advertising?

One race I'll watch with interest on Tuesday is the retention vote involving Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David.

Decades ago, Indiana adopted the Missouri Plan system for selecting appellate judges. That system involves gubernatorial selection of the judge from a list of three pre-screened nominees.  After the selection, the judge appears on the next election's ballot for a retention vote, a vote "Yes" or "No" to retain the person in office.  After the initial retention vote, the appellate judge only appears on the ballot every 10 years.  Here is an article that discusses the Missouri Plan used by Indiana.
Justice Seven David

In the forty years that the Missouri Plan has been in place, no appellate judge has ever come close to losing a retention vote.  If memory serves me correctly, most retention questions result in an "Yes" vote that is typically in the range of 75%.  At the worst, again if I'm remembering correctly, the lowest percent has been around 65%.  It seems that when people don't know the judge their default" is to vote "Yes." I suppose if people haven't heard anything bad about the judge, they assume he or she deserves to stay on the bench.

While removal via a retention loss has never happened in Indiana, it has happened in other states, albeit rarely.  These retention losses though always involved highly-funded, well-organized efforts. The effort to get people to "Vote No" on Justice David's retention is unique in that it exists almost entirely in the social media, e.g. Facebook, emails, blogs, etc.  Can a campaign that exists almost exclusively in the social media, a campaign that does not use direct mail and media advertising, actually prevail? 

My guess social media is not yet there and that a campaign can't succeed without traditional advertising.  hile I expect that Justice David's retention vote totals will be historically low, I also expect the "Yes" votes will still exceed 60%, a 20% victory.  But if I'm wrong, it would represent a dramatic shift in the political landscape, a leveling of the playing field brought about by social media.


Downtown Indy said...

His 'No' egg was the first one I inked-in today.


Justice David was retained


--"Just Us"