Chief Justice Speaks Out About Judicial Elections In Ohio

posted by Judge_Burke @ 14:00 PM
June 13, 2013

There are few commentators that are more thoughtful about what is right and wrong about United States Courts than Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. She wrote a commentary recently about judicial elections in Ohio that even if you don’t live there is worth reading.  “It would be hard to think of an area of our society that is not affected by judges and the courts. From approving adoptions to settling estates, from marriage licenses to divorce decrees, from traffic tickets to serious violent crime, judges in Ohio handle more than 1 million cases each year, and behind every one of these cases there are real people and families seeking justice.

Thus, there are few matters more important in our democracy than how we select our judges. I believe we can do a better job, and I am inviting Ohioans to join me in this cause.

Make no mistake, we enjoy one of the best systems of justice anywhere in the world. Extraordinarily talented and hard-working people make up the Ohio judiciary, and the work they do every day is remarkable.

But there are three reasons why I believe we can do even better: 1) There are problems with the public’s perceptions of judges and the judicial branch. 2) Voter participation in judicial elections is less than it should be. 3) There is evidence that more can be done to educate and inform the electorate.

The public perception problem arises again and again in poll after poll. A poll by the National Center for State Courts found that 59 percent of Americans believe courts’ decisions are influenced by politics. A recent poll found that the public’s view of the U.S. Supreme Court — viewed as a barometer of the general perception of the judicial branch — has reached an all-time low of 44 percent.


Voter participation in judicial races is consistently much less than in other contests.

For example, I researched voter participation in Ohio over the past decade and found that on average one quarter of all voters who come to the polls in statewide elections do not cast a ballot in Ohio Supreme Court contests.

And those voters who do stick around for the judicial races at the back of the ballot often express frustration that they do not have sufficient information on which to base their vote.

A national study recently found that 14.5 percent of voters leaving the booth could not name even one of the judicial candidates on the ballot they just cast.”


For the full commentary see:

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