EDITORIAL ALERT: Senate Bill 80 is a cynical, dangerous push to politicize Ohio’s courts


  • State lawmakers are fast-tracking a plan to inject partisan politics into the highest profile judicial races in the state — a push that is opposed by the current chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and the Ohio Judicial Conference.
  • Senate Bill 80 recently passed the Senate (24-9)  along partisan lines. It now heads to the Ohio House for consideration. Companion legislation HB 149 is also being considered in the House.
  • Current law in Ohio allows judicial candidates to appear on a primary ballot with their partisan affiliation and seek the support of political parties, but it does not permit party ID to appear on the general election ballot for candidates for local judgeships, the state’s 12 appellate courts, or the state Supreme Court.
  • A new Republican proposal would require candidates for Ohio’s appellate courts and the Supreme Court to have their partisan affiliation appear on the general election ballot. This proposal comes after Democratic candidates won three out of the last four races for the state’s highest court in 2018 and 2020, shifting the balance of the court from a 7-0 GOP majority to a 4-3 makeup.
  • The proposal would not affect lower court races, where Republicans have been more successful — a tell that this legislation is not based on a good-government desire to inform voters, but pure partisan strategy.
  • In addition, the percentage of Ohio voters who skipped making a choice in the 2020 state Supreme Court races was down significantly from previous presidential election years. This is another indication that the motivations behind this bill are based not on voter education, but political considerations.


Fast Facts


In the News

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor again calls for eliminating party affiliation on judicial ballots

Toledo Blade: Depoliticize Ohio’s courts

Youngstown Vindicator: Some judge-race labels sought



Senate Bill 80 is a cynical, dangerous push to politicize Ohio’s courts and potentially derail much-needed judicial reform efforts. The organization representing the state’s judges and the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court oppose this effort, and with turnout in these races increasing over the past three presidential cycles, it is unnecessary. If the bill’s proponents truly believed partisan labels were needed to inform Ohio voters, they would not advocate for selective use only in certain races, leaving voters without the “needed” information in other judicial races. To the contrary, this legislation’s intent is partisan manipulation. There is no good-government rationale for it or for injecting more partisanship into the races for Ohio Supreme Court and the state’s 12 appellate courts.