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Website to inform voters

Goal to increase voter participation

COLUMBUS — Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is touting a new website to inform voters of choices before them in upcoming judicial elections in the state.

Speaking to reporters at the Ohio Associated Press Legislative Preview Session on Thursday, she directed voters to JudicialVotesCount.org, a statewide, nonpartisan resource listing all judicial races, candidate biographies and statements from those running.

“We’re using traditional media and social media to encourage people to vote and we’re hoping to get a huge number of hits on the website,” she said.

In addition to candidate information, the website provides resources on Ohio’s court system and duties of judges.

O’Connor said 145 judicial races will be on the ballot across Ohio this year, and that the website will allow voters to seek out information on the races.

“You can get on laptops over pizza and beer and discuss the qualifications of judicial candidates,” she said.

She said the website will be up for the state’s March 15 primary election. After that, it will be tweaked and updated with information for the general election.

O’Conner said court races will have impact at the state, federal and local levels and that the website will be crucial to an informed electorate.

“This is a great resource in the state of Ohio,” she said. “It’s ultimate goal is to elevate voter participation.

The website is part of a three-point plan to reform elections, which O’Connor presented in 2014, which also included proposals to hold all judicial elections in odd-numbered calendar years and moving them to the top of the ballot, as well as a statutory change to increase the basic qualifications to serve as a judge.

The Judicial Votes Count initiative is a partnership of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, the Ohio Newspaper Association and the Ohio Association of Broadcasters.

O’Connor said the website will not generate its own content, but will allow those running to post their information, as well as respond to opponents.

“We will not censor candidates,” she said.

O’Connor, a Republican, served as lieutenant governor of Ohio from 1999 to 2002 under Bob Taft. She was elected as associate justice to the court in 2003 and was appointed as chief justice by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in 2011. She is the state’s first female chief justice.