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Partisan manipulation of elections is shameful

For as long as I have lived in Western New York, it has been the custom for the two major parties to cross-nominate sitting Supreme Court justices who sought re-election. Although this practice was not always followed, the exceptions were rare enough to be notable.

This year the Democrats and Republicans have abandoned this tradition, and it has not been clear why. The two sitting justices seeking re-election are among the very best on the bench, so it should have been a simple decision. It now appears that the reason for departing from a judicial selection system that had the advantage of favoring jurists of known competence is that the governor, through his cat’s-paw, Steve Pigeon, is endeavoring to block judicial cross-endorsements in order to excite voter turnout.

New York’s system for judicial selection combines the worst features of any I have seen: a group of party insiders select candidates who then appear on the ballot. There is nothing about a judge’s role that suggests that democratic election will yield meritorious candidates, but our system is neither merit-based nor truly democratic. Now on top of this it appears that we are going to be treated to contested judicial elections held for a purpose wholly distinct from any sort of legitimate effort to seat the best qualified. This is a disgraceful partisan manipulation, and all involved should be filled with shame.

William C. Altreuter

Buffalo