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Bill Requiring Ballot Party Listing in State Judicial Races Clears Legislature - CMBA News and Information

CMBA Updates & Legal News

Posted by: Brennan Donnellan on Jun 28, 2021
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Watch Hot Talk: Party of No Party? You Be The Judge in its entirety here. More than 100 people registered for the live program, and it has attracted more than 300 additional views on Facebook and YouTube.

UPDATE: 6/25/2021 The Ohio Senate passed their version of the bill, Senate Bill 80, on Friday 6/25/2021. That version of the bill is now sent to Gov. DeWine to sign into law. The Governor has not publicly stated if he will sign the bill.

The Ohio State House of Presidentatives voted 57-38 on Wednesday, mainly along party lines, to approve a measure to require party affiliation to be listed on ballots for judicial elections for the State of Ohio Supreme Court and State Appellate Courts. Most Republicans voted for the bill, most Democrats voted against it. Next, the bill moves to the Ohio Senate for consideration, where a version already passed in April.

If signed into law, judicial candidates would be listed with their party designation beginning this November. The law would also move judicial races higher on the ballot, making them more visible since many voters skip listings lower on the ballot.

The panelists for this Hot Talk, presented in partnership with The League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland, were Ohio State Supreme Court Justice R. Patrick DeWine, who favors the law, and Hon. Cynthia Wescott Rice, an 11th District Court of Appeals Judge, who opposes it.

DeWine said: “You have to start somewhere. The question isn’t whether it’s perfect reform. It’s whether it’s better than the system we have.”

But Rice said the proposal increases the politicizing of some judicial races by adding party affiliation.

She criticizes the bill for only requiring party affiliation for Supreme Court and court of appeals judge and not for local ones. Rice said the contention from supporters of the bill is people know their local judges, but she said that isn’t the case.

Adding party affiliation to these judicial seats will increase voter turnout for those races, DeWine said. 

“Political affiliation is something some voters would find useful,” he said.

Rice agreed the change would increase the number of voters for judicial races. 

“My concern is they’d be uninformed voters” who just side with a political party and “undermine the goal of electing the most qualified and experienced judges,” Rice said. 

“What’s the value in that?” she asked.

You can read more analysis of our Hot Talk from the Youngstown Vindicator at this link.

On June 10th, CMBA conducted an unscientific poll of our members about this issue.

More than 77% said they opposed the new law.

Here is a representative sampling of the comments and questions we received during Tuesday's Hot Talk:

Catherine Turcer:    It sounds like Justice DeWine is in favor of partisan labels for all races. So, he should be against HB149 and SB80 since they withhold information from voters in most judicial races. Since he supports partisan labels, he should be lobbying heavily against these bills and against the budget amendment.

Kirstin Alvanitakis:    Michigan has a similar system. Supreme Court candidates are nominated at party conventions, then run with no party designation on the general election ballot.

Catherine Turcer:    And HB149/SB80 doesn’t resolve that problem because it is not uniform across races. Does it matter that judges from both parties are overwhelmingly against these bills?

William Weisenberg:    let’s cut to the chase-isn’t this about influencing the outcome of judicial elections and not about information??

Tommie Radd:    So concerned about the appearance of bias. This is a big mistake to add party affiliation. Why jam it in a budget bill?  This is a power grab!  This needs a standalone bill to debate!

Beth Segal:    Deeply grateful to both sides for having this debate and to CLE Metro Bar for hosting



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