Hoping to take advantage of a recent federal court ruling in Kentucky, the Ohio Democratic Party joined a lawsuit filed today that seeks to abolish the restrictions imposed on judicial candidates in Ohio.
The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month struck down the rules used in Kentucky for electing judges, stating they violated the judicial candidates’ First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The rules prohibited candidates from listing their party affiliation on the ballot, or to directly solicit campaign contributions.
Ohio has virtually identical rules for its judicial candidates and is located in the same judicial circuit, meaning the ruling likely will be a precedent that applies here. Political observers expected a suit challenging the law ever since the earlier ruling was issued.
"There is no reason for judicial candidates to be forced to withhold their party affiliation from the electorate," said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, in a prepared statement.
"Ohio voters have a right to know the political party that a judicial candidate is affiliated with,” Redfern added. “The more information voters have, the better. I call on the Ohio Republican Party to join us as a plaintiff in this case, which simply applies the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, written by a conservative Republican judge."
So far, other plaintiffs in the Ohio case are the AFSCME Council 8 labor union and several Ohio judges.
Before the Kentucky ruling, an organization still could publicly endorse a judicial candidate, which essentially made it obvious what party the candidate preferred. Also, although candidates couldn't directly raise campaign cash, they could establish committees to raise the money for them.