Nov 16 2012
Last week’s Ohio Supreme Court elections held some surprises. William O’Neill and Sharon Kennedy displaced two incumbent justices in Tuesday’s election, and the Toledo Blade thinks that the shakeup makes a compelling case for merit selection.
The editorial argues that O’Neill and Kennedy won by riding a wave of name recognition all the way to the bench. Ohio Republic Chairman Bob Bennett told the Associated
Press that in Cuyahoga County, “we elect anybody with a good Irish name, even if they wind up going to jail later.” Rather than advocating for voter education, Ohio’s party leaders have suggested putting party labels on the ballot so voters can vote down straight party lines.
“That is an irrational way to select people who can deprive their fellow citizens of their liberty and property.” Judges have a lot of power, and it’s enormously important to get thoughtful, steadfast, well-qualified people on the bench. Whether it’s name recognition or party affiliation, we don’t know why people vote the way that they
do. There are a host of factors that weigh on a voter’s choice, and “most qualified candidate” isn’t always one of them.
Although the justice system affects everyone, people don’t always have a great deal of interaction with the court system or with judges in any given election cycle. It can be hard to get enough information about any given candidate for voters to shape an informed opinion. Merit Selection “puts the selection process in the hands of people who will evaluate the credentials of judicial candidates.” With so much riding on the formation of our state judiciary, are we really willing to roll the dice with the hope that the most popular name will make the best judge?