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High-stakes races for the Ohio Supreme Court will determine the balance of the bench

 The Ohio Supreme Court building in Columbus.
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
The Ohio Supreme Court building in Columbus.

The races for three seats on the Ohio Supreme Court this November are gaining national attention for the stakes involved with future decisions related to abortion, redistricting, and other high-profile issues.

Ohio Supreme Court races rarely get as much attention as other statewide races. Vote totals from past elections show some voters who cast ballots don’t make choices in supreme court races. Some just skip those races altogether. But Republicans and Democrats are hoping that will change.

Advocates for parties and issues say they will be pumping money and putting a lot of attention on those races. Sabatos' Crystal Ball, the national political forecasting newsletter, has included Ohio's supreme court races on its short list of those to watch this November.

Among the advocates keeping a close eye on the supreme court races are those involved with the issue of abortion.

Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said she's stressing the importance of getting Democratic justices elected for the state's high court in November.

“The fastest and first way that we can re-establish full abortion access in Ohio is through the state supreme court," Copeland said.

Likewise, Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said his group will also be emphasizing the importance of Supreme Court races. And he said he expects Republican judicial candidates to have the advantage because it is a statewide election.

"9.9 times out of ten, the pro-life candidate wins statewide elections in Ohio," Gonidakis said.

Current Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is retiring due to age limits and a sitting Republican or Democratic justice will be chosen to replace her. Democratic Justice Jennifer Brunner and Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy are vying for O'Connor's post.

Two other Republican Justices are up for re-election. Republican Justice Pat Fischer is being challenged by Democratic Court of Appeals Judge Terri Jamison. The other Republican up for re-election is Justice Pat DeWine who is running against Democratic District Court of Appeals Judge Marilyn Zayas.

Justice Pat DeWine was criticized for not recusing himself from cases involving the Ohio Redistricting Commission, of which his father Gov. Mike DeWine is a member.

The redistricting saga played out with the majority of the court ruling the state's legislative and congressional redistricting maps unconstitutional. O'Connor became the key swing vote in those cases by siding with the three Democratic justices in those majority opinions. If two of the three Democrats running for those seats are elected, it could flip the ideological balance of the state’s high court.

Ohio Supreme Court candidates will have a party designation next to their name on the ballot for the first time this general election due to a new law passed by majority Republican state lawmakers.

The move is thought by political pundits to be an advantage for Republicans since the state has been trending in favor of the GOP in recent elections.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.