Yeah, it's good that incumbent State Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez won his race against a no-qualifications challenger last night.
But it's hard to feel very good about the results, since his challenger, Bruce Danielson, got 43 percent of the vote.
The only way to explain this is prejudice.
Danielson raised exactly $0. In Kitsap County—where he lives and where some people actually know a few things about his failed runs for other offices—Danielson lost. (Maybe it had something to do with the head of the Kitsap County Bar Association pointing out that Danielson has "zero qualifications to be on the bench.")
But Bruce Danielson has a very, very white-sounding name.
In addition, according to Dave Ammons, only 6 or 7 counties actually printed and mailed out a voters guide this year (the state didn't send out a voters guide due to budget constraints). On top of that, neither incumbent status nor party preference is noted in judicial contests, per election rules. As a result, in a lot of the state this contest turned into a rather pure experiment in what happens when you throw two very different names—Bruce Danielson and Steve Gonzalez—on a ballot and then mail that ballot out to voters with no other information.
The results are now clear: rural voters, for the most part, pick the white guy over the Latino guy.
If Gonzalez hadn't spent over $260,000 to combat this dynamic—and if urban Washingtonians hadn't sounded the alarm—then we'd now have a Justice Bruce Danielson.
This is a disgracefully ignorant and dangerous way to pick our supreme court justices.
At a minimum, state officials need to look at these results and realize that it's their duty to mail out a voters pamphlet to every single eligible voter. Otherwise, in these down-ballot races, the vote becomes far more informed by prejudice than information. But we also need to think about whether it's smart to elect our supreme court justices in this manner in the first place.
If we don't pay attention to what happened last night, and do something about it, we're guaranteeing ourselves more results like last night—when more than 276,000 registered voters picked an unqualified guy for supreme court, with most of them probably doing it because they liked the sound of his name more than they liked the sound of Gonzalez.