Here’s Why We Shouldn’t Vote for Our Supreme Court Justices
We have different branches of our government for a reason. I remember learning about it as early as middle school — the legislature makes the laws, the executive branch enforces them, and the judicial branch interprets them. There are checks and balances, separation of powers, and all sorts of mechanisms to make sure that we have a functioning democracy. But then two separate polls caught my eye this week that make me curious about the mindset of the American people.
The first involved a poll in which half of the American public said that the Supreme Court should be elected rather than appointed. The poll was conducted online by Harris Polls.
The second poll was conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and it discovered that 35 percent of Americans couldn’t name a single branch of the American government. In the release of the poll, Annenberg director Kathleen Hall Jamieson stated,
Although surveys reflect disapproval of the way Congress, the President and the Supreme Court are conducting their affairs, the Annenberg survey demonstrates that many know surprisingly little about these branches of government.
The two polls obviously, weren’t made to be related, but they do provide an interesting and weird insight into the minds of the American populace. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the time that Jimmy Fallon asked people whether they supported Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.
Back to the topic at hand though — the idea of having our Supreme Court justices subject to elections is a troublesome one. There’s a reason that they’re not elected in the first place — so that they don’t have to pander to an electorate. An electorate who probably could not even name the branch of government for which they would be choosing justices.
The way that our government works now, our Congresspeople, Senators, Governors, President, and other elected officials are constantly running for office. They always have to look at the polls to see what everyone is thinking. They sometimes have to contend with voters turning on them because of the actions of others in their party. They constantly have to contend with the fact that if they make moves or pass laws that their constituents don’t like, they could be out of a job.
Then, those people who are constantly up for vote, write our laws. And the Supreme Court, who is appointed by the those elected people, has to interpret those laws. Their job depends on the fact that they aren’t held accountable.
Does that mean that they always make the right choices? No, definitely not. I certainly take issue with many SCOTUS decisions, but I get to elect the people who pass and sign the laws — it would be too much to also vote for the people who interpret the laws.
Our democracy isn’t always perfect, and it often fails, but it is a democracy with checks and balances for a reason.