Montana could become fifth state to elect supreme court justices by district

Welcome to the Thursday, Aug. 19, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Montana voters to decide measure on electing state supreme court justices
  2. Clallam County municipal primary results certified
  3. Seattle primary results certified

Montana voters to decide measure on electing state supreme court justices

Montana voters will decide three statewide ballot measures in November 2022. Let’s look at one of them, which addresses how the state’s supreme court chief justices are elected.

Montana voters will decide on LR-132, a legislatively referred state statute that would:

  • require that the seven state Supreme Court justices be elected by district and 
  • provide for the selection of the chief justice by a majority vote of the justices beginning with the general election of 2024. 

If adopted, the law would make Montana the fifth state to elect supreme court justices by district. Four states—Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi—have state supreme courts that represent districts. Twenty-four states select their supreme court chief justices via majority vote of the justices.

Currently, Montana Supreme Court justices serve eight-year terms following a general statewide nonpartisan election. Montana Supreme Court chief justices are also elected through a nonpartisan election to eight-year terms.

If passed, here’s how the law would work:

  • Montana LR-132 would divide the state into seven districts for each of the seven supreme court justices. The measure would not remove any sitting state supreme court justice. 
  • Associate justices would be assigned district numbers according to their seat number, and the chief justice would be assigned the seventh district. 
  • Associate justices may seek re-election in the district assigned to them or resign from their current district to file to run in another district. 
  • The Montana State Legislature would be required to review the districts after the decennial census to ensure the districts contain approximately the same number of residents without dividing counties.

A similar law was referred to Montana ballots in 2012, but it was removed before the primary election by the Montana Supreme Court because it required justices to reside in the district they wished to represent. The 2022 law would not require that justices live in the district in which they wish to represent. In Illinois, Kentucky, and Louisiana, supreme court justices are required to reside in the districts they represent.

For the full background of the measure, click the link below.

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Clallam County municipal primary results certified

As part of our efforts to provide coverage of local elections, we’re branching out of our normal scope of elections in the 100 largest cities by population, as well as elections for mayors, city councils, and district attorneys in all 50 state capitals and school boards in the 200 largest public school districts.

Today, we’re focusing on Clallam County, Washington. Clallam County is on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and has a population of 77,331. Why this county in particular? Clallam has the nation’s longest unbroken record of voting for the winning presidential candidate, going back to 1980. Clallam County became a Boomerang Pivot County in 2020, meaning voters voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and then voted for Joe Biden in 2020. 

The county held top-two primaries in three cities—Port Angeles, Sequim, and Forks—on Aug. 3. The county auditor certified the results on Aug. 17. The following offices were up for election:

  • Fire District #3, Commissioner Position No. 1 (multi-county race which includes votes from Jefferson County)
  • Forks City Council Position No. 2
  • Port Angeles School District Director Position No. 2
  • Port Angeles City Council (four seats) 
  • Sequim School District Director at Large, Position No. 4 

Click the link below to view the results for the above races.

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Seattle primary results certified

In other Washington state elections news, Seattle, Washington, held municipal primaries on Aug. 3 for mayor, two at-large city council seats, and city attorney. Washington is a vote-by-mail state, so election results were delayed. On Aug. 19, King County Elections certified the results. They are listed below.


Former City Council President Bruce Harrell and current City Council President Lorena González advanced in the mayoral primary with 34.0% and 32.1% of the vote, respectively. Fifteen candidates ran in the primary. Current Mayor Jenny Durkan didn’t seek re-election.

City council

For the position 8 council seat, incumbent Teresa Mosqueda and Kenneth Wilson advanced with 59.4% and 16.2% of the vote, respectively.

For the position 9 council seat, which González currently holds, Creative Justice executive director Nikkita Oliver and Fremont Brewing co-owner Sara Nelson advanced with 40.2% and 39.5% of the vote, respectively. 

City attorney

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy and Ann Davison advanced after incumbent Pete Holmes conceded on Aug. 6. Thomas-Kennedy received 36.4% of the vote followed by Davison with 32.7% and Holmes with 30.6%.

The general election is on Nov. 2.

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