COLUMBIA (AP) — A House panel has advanced a bill allowing the Legislature to choose South Carolina’s judges from among all candidates deemed qualified for the job.

The judiciary panel voted unanimously Thursday to no longer limit the Legislature to three candidates picked by a committee.

Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney said the selection process gives the perception that an elite group is handpicking judges by preventing a vote on otherwise qualified candidates.

Legislators appoint the 10 members of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission. Six of the 10 are legislators.

The bill by Democratic Rep. Leon Howard would keep the commission in place to continue screening candidates for qualifications.

Delleney said picking the top three is nice in theory, but it’s very difficult when six may be qualified, with little difference between them.