We all knew this topic would come up again. In fact, judicial primary reform has been a cocktail-hour point of conversation for just about a century in Ohio. That's because, seriously, this is the only state that still identifies judges' political party affiliation on primary ballots. Regular judicial elections bear nonpartisan ballots - judicial candidates' names appear with no party affiliation during those elections.
Bills to make both processes nonpartisan were introduced in the Statehouse in 1911, Tom Suddes, eminent Ohio political historian, writes, though only the regular election-related bill made it into the folds of state law. O'Connor has said on several occasions - and most recently today - that taking the Ds and Rs off judicial primary ballots would make the whole thing a bit more engaging for the citizenry. Typical retorts to the idea involve the fact that, well, people don't have time to analyze the career dossiers of judicial candidates; voters often feel their way through the ballot by looking for political party footholds to grasp. It's a short-cut that also benefits deep-pocketed lobbyists that need judge of a particular party sitting in the hot seat.
But take the parties out of the conversation, and you'll likely end up with voters continuing to play the "name game," especially in regions like Cuyahoga County. Rather than seeking the friendly embrace of a Democrat or Republican (not the most heartfelt of images, but...), voters historically and readily look for names that have a local resonance: The O'Donnells, Sweeneys, Gallaghers, Celebrezzes of the world, to name a few.
The Associated Press notes that polls show overall opposition to the idea.
Drop your comments on the matter below, and let the Great Judicial Reform Games begin!
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