Randy Smith and Mike Wetherell used to parry political ideas when they chaired the Idaho Republican and Democratic parties in the early 1990s. Smith and Wetherell now wear judges’ robes — Smith in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and Wetherell in Idaho’s 4th District Court. Today, they’re breaking a lifetime habit together. “I do not believe that I should declare what I am,” said Smith, 62. “I’m not supposed to be partisan. So I’m not voting. I’ve never not voted. It’s going to be sad.” The 67-year-old Wether-ell said: “For the first time since I became of voting age, I will not be taking part in the primary election. I meant it when I said that in this job I would be nonpartisan.” Nobody told Wetherell and Smith that they can’t vote. They decided that their own ethics and reading of judicial canons prevent partisan affiliation.
Until this election, the decision of whether to vote Democratic or Republican in the primary was made in the privacy of the ballot box. Under a new law that makes party affiliation a public record, Smith and Wetherell will be joined by plenty of other judges taking a pass Tuesday, says James Carlson, executive director of the Idaho Judicial Council, which oversees 157 judges.