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Swearingen's Legislation to Create Judicial Candidate Transparency in General Elections Passes Ohio House

The law currently requires judges to already run with party-affiliations in primaries
June 23, 2021
D. J. Swearingen News

COLUMBUS – State Rep. D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron) announces that House Bill 149 passed within the Ohio House earlier today. The legislation adds a judicial candidate’s party affiliation on a general election ballot, specifically, to judicial candidates for Ohio Court of Appeals districts and the Ohio Supreme Court. Swearingen spoke to the bill on the House floor.

“For many decades now, the Ohio voter has wanted and demanded party designation for their judicial candidates on the ballot, as reflected by the enormous under-vote year in and year out,” said Swearingen. “For clarification purposes, the under-vote are those voters that abstain from voting down the ballot and in judicial races, it is enormous.”

According to an Ohio judicial elections survey, one-half of respondents said they vote less frequently for judges compared to other offices with a high indication that a party affiliation would be helpful for this voting process. Currently, the law already requires judges to run in partisan primaries and they receive endorsements from political parties. 

“In reality, the process of electing a judge is already politicized simply by the sheer fact that it is an election and in addition due to the following facts,” Swearingen said. “The judicial candidates have to go through a partisan primary to get to the general election. They already get party funding, grassroots support - door knocking, sign placements -, they put the party information on yard signs, they put it on their social media, and they even tell voters at the door which party they affiliate with if asked by the voter, as we heard in committee.”

The bill was recently approved earlier this month out of the House Government and Oversight Committee. Swearingen also points out that the legislation is about informing the voters and creating more transparency on the candidates they’re voting on within the general election.

“Many of my colleagues across the aisle seem to think that the ‘R’ or ‘D’ next to a judicial candidate is an indication as to how a judge will rule. This is not true, it would be more accurate to say that it gives an indication to the judicial philosophy of those candidates as they approach the cases in front of them,” Swearingen added.

After its passage in the House, House Bill 149 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.