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Panel tables plan for judges to be elected with party labels

A House committee is setting aside a proposal to have Mississippi’s judges run as Democrats and Republicans.

The House Judiciary A Committee, on a split voice vote on Tuesday, tabled House Bill 496.

Mississippi switched from partisan to nonpartisan judicial elections in 1994. However, House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden, a Meridian Republican, says he thinks the state should switch back.

Snowden says the current judicial election structure is flawed because when more than two candidates run for a judgeship, runoff elections are held three weeks after the general election. Turnout usually falls off sharply.

Democrats question whether the change would provide an advantage to Republicans in judicial elections. State Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens, a former Democrat, won re-election in the Central District last year against a Republican-endorsed opponent.

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