Ballot bio: Iowa judicial retention

Sarah Haas

On the back of the ballot, Iowans can vote whether to retain Supreme Court justices. Three justices who voted to allow same-sex marriage in Iowa will be up for retention.

Retention votes occur at least one year after a judge is appointed and then again every eight years. Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit will all appear on the ballot.

Conservative groups angry with the 2009 decision that made Iowa a forerunner in gay rights have campaigned hard to remove the justices from their positions.

The group Iowa for Freedom, spearheaded by politician and businessman Bob Vander Plaats, has helped in the movement to encourage residents to vote out the justices.

“In April of 2009, we all witnessed blatant judicial activism by the Iowa Supreme Court. The court legislated from the bench … they governed from the bench … and, they even attempted to amend our constitution from the bench as they declared Iowa a ‘same-sex’ marriage state. This is not their role. The Legislature makes the law. The governor executes the law. And, only ‘we the people’ can amend our constitution,” said the group’s website.

Meanwhile other groups have tried to educate the public about the importance of political noninterference in judicial affairs. Although Iowa does have the ability to vote on whether to unseat a justice, the event would be highly unusual.