Choose Your Judges

Polls Predict Close Race in Iowa, Republican victories in Ohio, Michigan

February 20th, 2013

In Iowa, where all three Justices up for retention are being challenged because of their votes (along with the rest of the Court) against a same-sex marriage ban, the most recent poll shows that 34% of likely voters will vote to retain all three Justices, while 37% will vote to remove all three Justices. 10% will vote to remove some but not all of the Justices, while 8% are not sure and 11% will not vote at all. Each Justice will need over 50% of voters to vote in favor of retention in order to keep his or her seat. The most common reason for rejecting the judges was that they do not reflect “the will of the people;” while the most common reason for retaining the judges was to prevent politics from affecting how judges do their jobs.

In Michigan, where four major candidates are running for two open seats, the Republicans have an advantage in the polls: challenger Mary Beth Kelly and incumbent Robert Young are the first choice of 24% and 20% of voters, respectively. The Democratic candidates, incumbent Alton Davis and challenger Denise Langford Morris, lag far behind at 10% and 7% respectively. However, 37% of voters remain undecided, so the race could go either way. If the Republicans can hold onto Young’s seat and take back Davis’ seat, they will regain a 4-3 majority on the Court—and this time the four Republican Justices should all be reliable conservative votes.

In Ohio, where two seats are up for grabs, both Republicans have comfortable leads. In the race for Associate Justice, Incumbent Republican Judith Ann Lanzinger is leading Democrat Mary Ann Trapp 65% to 32%. In the race for Chief Justice, Justice Maureen O’Connor is preferred by 68% of the voters, while current Chief Justice Eric Brown only receives 32%. Of course, if O’Connor wins the seat, she will vacate her own seat as associate Justice at the beginning of the year, leaving a vacancy for Ohio’s new governor to fill. The only catch is that nobody can predict who that governor will be—incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican John Kasich are in a dead heat. If Strickland wins, he may simply re-appoint Brown to O’Connor’s empty seat; if Kasich wins, he will no doubt appoint a Republican, and the Court will once again have no Democrats. (There is a third Supreme Court election in Ohio, in which incumbent Republican Justice Paul Pfeiffer is running unopposed).

Two other retention-election states being tracked by this website, California and Illinois, have not produced any reliable poll data for their Supreme Court races. In California, this is understandable, since the three Justices up for retention have not faced any real opposition and are expected to be retained by comfortable margins. In Illinois, however, Chief Justice Kilbride has been targeted for his allegedly anti-business decisions (though the opposition’s attack ads have mostly gone after Kilbride for his allegedly “pro-criminal” decisions—something of a stretch given Kildbride’s endorsements from law enforcement organizations). Under Illinois law, Kilbride needs 60% of the vote to be retained, and the strength of the opposition leads to some doubts as to whether Kilbride can reach that threshold.

Newsweek Reports on Factual Inaccuracies in Judicial Advertising

As with any other type of political attack ad, inaccuracies in judicial advertising are not hard to find. In this article, Newsweek magazine looks at the most egregious factual inaccuracies in various Supreme Court races. The three most egregious misleading ads are attack ads against Robert Young (Michigan), Thomas Kilbride (Illinois), and the three Iowa Supreme Court Justices.

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