I just got done watching an episode of Frontline from back in February. It talks about a crisis in this country centering around coroners who may or may not be qualified to do their jobs. According to what they were saying in hundreds of counties around this country, the office of coroner is an elected position. No qualifications are needed, and in fact in some areas you, at least until recently, didn’t even need to have a high school diploma. As long as you can get elected, you can serve and that’s all that matters.
It’s the same with a lot of other positions around the country. Here in Arizona, as in many other places, sheriffs are elected (thus sticking us repeatedly with Sheriff Joe). So is the State Mine Inspector. So is the Attorney General. So is the Secretary of State. In almost every state, judges are elected officials.
I must ask at this point, why? Why do we do this? This seems really stupid and counterproductive. I mean, how can a judge possibly campaign in any ethical fashion? Come to that, how can sheriff candidates campaign? All they can really do is say, “Yes, I’ll enforce the laws!” and beyond that it’s just a popularity contest. And State Mine Inspector? Why the hell is that an elected position?
Look, democracy is all well and good, and I wouldn’t have any other form of government. But really, people, this is taking it to a stupid extreme. All of these positions should be appointed positions, and with the possible exception of judges, they should expire at the end of the term of office of whomever appointed them. If the next person wants to reappoint them, great. But otherwise, no. There should also be confirmation hearings and a certain level of minimum qualification required for people who are appointed.
I realize this doesn’t entirely eliminate the possibility of getting unqualified people into office, but it does lessen the chances. And really, there’s not a single good reason why anyone in these positions, especially a judge, should have to run for election.