DES MOINES — Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins is keeping his job.
The Iowa State Bar Association late Tuesday said its analysis showed that Iowans had rejected the “harmful and ill-conceived” efforts to oust Wiggins, one of the justices involved in the Varnum decision that led to the legalization of gay marriage in Iowa.
With 1,555 of the Iowa’s 1,689 precincts reporting, unofficial results showed 641,218 “yes” votes to retain Wiggins to 539,238 “no” votes.
Justices Edward Mansfield, Thomas Waterman and Bruce Zager, who also stood for retention on Tuesday’s ballot, had more than 775,000 “yes” votes for retention.
Iowa State Bar Association President Cynthia Moser of Des Moines applauded the decision to retain all the judges and justices on the ballot, saying it shows citizens are confident in the state’s merit system for selecting judges and that they want to maintain fair and impartial courts.
“The citizens have spoken, and they won’t allow outside money to impact the courts,” Moser said.
Connie Ryan Terrell, chairwoman of Justice Not Politics, said the result shows it’s important to the people of Iowa to protect their courts.
Conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats said earlier that Iowans sent a message to hold “activist” judges accountable and show judges that “Iowans are watching.“
This is the second anti-retention campaign led by Vander Plaats and special interest groups after the first campaign in 2010 successfully ousted three Iowa Supreme Court justices over the Varnum ruling. In that decision, the justices unanimously ruled the state’s Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional because it failed to provide equal protection for all. The ruling led to legalizing same-sex marriage in Iowa
Vander Plaats claimed the three justices went against the will of the people. He took a similar stance against Wiggins but also cited Wiggins’ low rating on the Iowa Judicial Performance Review completed by attorneys who belong to the Iowa State Bar Association. Wiggins received a retention recommendation of 63.3 percent of the respondents, which is satisfactory but lower than the other three justices up for retention.
This year, the state bar association and Justice Not Politics launched a more aggressive pro-retention campaign to educate voters about the state’s merit selection process for judges. Members of the bar association spoke to community organizations and held events to explain the Varnum decision.
This retention vote is being watched around the country because some believe it’s the “barometer” for the shifting views on same-sex marriage. Many on the pro-retention side have said in recent weeks they thought Iowans who voted against the justices in 2010 now regret that vote.