GOP targets state courts with campaign cash, laws that change judicial elections

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Seeking a more favorable climate in fights over election maps, Republicans are planning to spend record amounts on state supreme court races and introducing legislation to make judicial elections more political.

Reuters has the story on campaign cash, while Business Insider reports on legislation targeting courts.

According to Reuters, the Republican State Leadership Committee “plans to pour more than $5 million into the most high-profile contests,” which would be a record for the group.

In play are judicial races in Ohio, where four Republicans have seats on the seven-member court, and North Carolina, where Democrats have four of seven seats, the article reports. Courts in both those states, as well as in Pennsylvania, have blocked Republican-drawn congressional maps.

For the first time this year, ballots in Ohio will list the political affiliations of candidates of the state supreme court, according to Reuters. That should give an edge to Republicans.

Business Insider looks at other bills intended to benefit Republicans.

“Legislative efforts to politicize state judiciaries are moving full steam ahead in 2022,” the article reports.

“In 2021, 14 primarily Republican-controlled states passed 19 laws that curtail state courts’ ability to limit or strike down state laws, politicize judicial selection by changing how state judges are selected, and make it easier for judges to be targeted for their decisions,” Business Insider reports, citing information from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

According to the article and the Brennan Center for Justice, the new laws include:

• North Carolina and Wisconsin eliminated public funding for judicial elections.

• North Carolina changed lower-court election districts to make them more favorable to Republicans.

• Georgia limited judges’ ability to extend polling place hours. The law says judges can extend hours “upon good cause shown by clear and convincing evidence that persons were unable to vote at that precinct during a specific period or periods of time.” Poll hours can’t be extended for longer than the time that people were unable to vote.

• Lawmakers in Kansas, Kentucky and Texas approved bills to ban judges from changing or striking down state election laws.

• Montana gave the state’s Republican governor the power to fill interim court vacancies without vetting by a judicial nominating commission.

Legislators in Democratic states are also passing laws to benefit their party, according to the Brennan Center. In Illinois, for example, lawmakers redrew districts for the Illinois Supreme Court to benefit Democrats.

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