New Website Educates Ohio Voters on Judicial Races Ahead of Election Day
Through the Judicial Votes Count website, the Ohio State Bar Association provides information to voters who often skip voting in judicial races.
As election season kicks off, voters have likely paid attention to races for Congress and local leaders. Races for state, county, and appeals-court judges? Probably not so much. A new effort by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) hopes to change that.
Launched earlier this month, the Judicial Votes Count website provides information about Ohio’s judicial system and judicial candidates. OSBA CEO Mary Amos Augsburger said that historically a substantial number of voters skip voting for judicial candidates because they know little about them. For instance, there was a 16 to 18 percent dropoff in the number of voters who selected a candidate in the state’s Supreme Court races in 2020.
Judicial Votes Count has existed since 2014, pooling the efforts of OSBA, the University of Akron, and other associations and nonprofits. But visibility has been low, Augsburger said. “Our role had been to make sure we were making sure our members were aware of it, so they could be sharing information in their own communities,” she says. “It’s a great resource, but without public awareness that it’s out there, it’s not really going to be used.”
So when the State Supreme Court asked OSBA to take the lead on managing Judicial Votes Count last June, it focused on making the website more public-facing, building more awareness around the site, and making it more user-friendly. Through a grant, OSBA developed a paid social media campaign to promote the site on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads. It’s also produced a YouTube advertisement.
Augsburger says that two OSBA staffers work on the site, developing promotion plans and reaching out to candidates to fill out profiles and questionnaires. On relatively short notice, it’s gathered such profiles for a majority of the candidates and contested races.
Through its promotional efforts, OSBA is hoping to draw 15 million ad impressions through election day and thus draw people to the website, Augsburger said. But evidence of the effort’s success will be in the votes themselves. For the first time in Ohio, party affiliations will be included for candidates in judicial races, which may increase the number of votes cast in them. But Augsburger said she’s hopeful that the website will play a role as well.
“We’ve always looked at it as our role to inform the public about what courts do, what judges do, and why voting for judges is important,” she said. “I think we’ll continue to administer the site. The question will be, how successful is the campaign, and is it worth an ongoing investment? We’ll have to evaluate that after the election.”