Category Archives: Judicial Office

Nonpartisan Judicial Elections

non partisan judicial electionsIn a non-partisan election, candidates do not run a belonging to any political party and are listed on the ballot without any identifiable party affiliation. Many US states use a non-partisan system for the election of judges, district attorneys and other public officials.

Thirteen states choose their state Supreme Court justices in entirely non-partisan elections. Fifteen states hold non-partisan elections for appellate judges. Twenty-two states participate in non-partisan elections for trial court judges.

  •     Arkansas
  •     Georgia
  •     Idaho
  •     Kentucky
  •     Michigan
  •     Minnesota
  •     Mississippi
  •     Montana
  •     Nevada
  •     North Carolina
  •     North Dakota
  •     Ohio
  •     Oregon
  •     Washington
  •     Wisconsin

non partisan electionsEighteen states hold non-partisan elections for trial court positions. They include:

  •     Arkansas
  •     California
  •     Florida
  •     Idaho
  •     Kentucky
  •     Maryland (partisan primaries)
  •     Michigan
  •     Minnesota
  •     Mississippi
  •     Nevada
  •     North Carolina
  •     North Dakota
  •     Ohio (partisan primaries)
  •     Oklahoma
  •     Oregon
  •     South Dakota
  •     Washington
  •     Wisconsin

In four states, there are exceptions non-partisan trial court elections:

  • Arizona: Judges of the Superior Court in counties with populations exceeding 250,000 are appointed. This currently includes Maricopa, Pima and Pinal Counties.
  • Georgia: Judges of the Probate Courts compete in partisan elections.
  • Indiana: Some circuit court judges participate in non-partisan elections.
  • Maryland and Ohio: Partisan primaries and non-partisan general elections.

Non-partisan judicial elections in name only?

Although some elections may be officially nonpartisan, the party affiliations of candidates are generally known or can be surmised by the groups endorsing a particular candidate.

Some argue that partisan politics have no place in judicial races, and that they have led to more campaign contributions and an increased partisanship among judges. In six states that hold partisan elections, Republican justices outnumber Democratic justices nearly two-to-one.

Judicial elections are now becoming a divisive issue in many states. Even some jurisdictions where the legislature is evenly divided between the parties have judicial races that are expensive, polarizing and ugly. In Florida, the state Supreme Court recently found a partisan political bias in a lower court ruling. The court’s partisan tilt, according to the court’s conservative leaning, led to outrage among lawyers and the public. Although the court found no wrong doing by the majority of its members, the ruling polarized the voters and caused untold frustration in Florida and across America.

Non-partisan elections for the bench have become more common in the United States as judicial vacancies increase in size and become more controversial.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonpartisanism
https://judgepedia.org/Non-partisan_election_of_judges

Know Your Judicial Election Laws

campaign-lawsAll political offices have specific citizenship, age and residency requirements. Candidates must meet those requirements in order to run and hold office. Candidates for Federal, state and even local judge are no exception.

The rules governing elections are designed to ensure an independent judiciary and help set them apart from both the legislature and the executive branches of government. There are federal laws, state laws and even local laws and regulations that candidates must adhere to or risk being removed from the ballot.

If anyone should know how to follow the rules to the letter, you would think it would be judges. However, the rules can be complex, and in some cases, arcane.

In our own dealings with judicial candidates with Online Candidate, we’ve encountered a number of unusual restrictions on fundraising and general campaigning, such as:

  • Some judicial candidates cannot actively solicit donations, but are allowed to accept them.
  • In Pennsylvania, candidates cannot mention donations or engage in any campaign fundraising until a specific date.
  • In other cases, donations must be made anonymously, and the candidate is not allowed to know who made the donation.

Many rules have changed in recent years. Since Citizens United, special interest groups and political parties spent large amounts of money on state court races. States where deep-pocketed groups pour millions of dollar in independent spending  have led to the most expensive 2011-12 high -court elections, particularly in Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, and North Carolina.

This spending has also included negative advertising, something that was one rare in judicial races. Many feel the influx of money is politicizing judicial elections and threatens the integrity of the court.

For judicial campaign websites, there may exist limitations on fundraising solicitations, publication of endorsements and even the timing when one can actually begin campaign online. Even social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, may be limited to judges in both a professional and electoral capacity.

The key takeaway here is that any candidate, no matter what office they are running for, needs to become intimately familiar with their state and local election laws. Rules should be adhered to when getting on the ballot, when fundraising and while advertising during the campaign.

Look to those who have already run or have experience in the position you are seeking. They can be a great source of knowledge and help you avoid unintentional mistakes that can hurt your campaign.

Additional Resources:

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Email Campaigns For Your Judical Campaign

emailDespite the growing popularity of social media, e-mail is still the ‘killer app’ for judicial candidates. If you  are planning on skipping email during your campaign, you will miss out on a great way to keep contact with voters, build your fundraising base and enhance your GOTV push.

If you haven’t started building your campaign email list, start building your list now! Don’t wait or you’ll kick yourself before Election Day when you realize how much voter communication you have missed out on.

There are a number of paid email list management services on the market. Some services are designed specifically for political candidates, often coupled with other services.

For smaller campaigns, any of the major email service providers will do the job. They include AWeber, Constant Contact and MailChimp. In this article, we’ll give an overview of each service and give you our opinion as to what service we recommend. (Spoiler: It’s AWeber.)

MailChimp is an attractive option for many small campaigns because it is free for lists of up to 2,000 subscribers. However, once you reach that limit, your monthly cost becomes $30 month (as of this writing). While MailChimp is easy to use and customize, it has a few downsides:

  • You cannot create followup autoresponders with the free version. A good autoresponder message sequence is essential to any good email campaign. Without it, the only messages your subscribers will get will be the ones you send manually.
  • The deliverability (actual messages getting into subscribers inboxes) may be lower than with other services. This is explained in more detail below.
  • MailChimp does not currently provide its subscribers with phone support service.

Constant Contact is another popular email service. Many political campaigns successfully use the service. It has a 60-day trial period. For additional costs, they have a number of integrated services that you can add on to just basic email services. Here are a few downsides:

  • Constant Contact is more expensive than some other similar service providers. While it allows for importing of email addresses, you cannot use Constant Contact with purchased or rented emailing lists. (Spammers beware!)
  • It may be difficult to cancel the service. Surprisingly, you cannot cancel your account online or via email. You must actually call them to cancel. Otherwise, you will continue to be billed after the campaign.

Aweber is the email service we use. After working with all three services over the years, we have come to the conclusion that AWeber is a better option for many campaigns and businesses looking to build an email presence.

Here are a few reasons why we recommend AWeber for our clients:

1) Easier opt-in and subscribe forms. The signup forms from MailChimp and Constant Contact in particular are difficult to configure and design. Constant Contact allows you to embed a subscribe form in your site but the code uses tables that is difficult to use and sometimes breaks other parts of your page design. Aweber has a form builder that is very intuitive and easy to use. You can generate HTML code from your edited subscribe form or use a line of Javascript to pull the form into your pages.

2) Message deliverablity. AWeber tends to have a better track record for successfully delivering messages into subscriber’s inbox, without getting stuck in spam filters. This is because AWeber DOES NOT allow users to add people to my mailing list without sending a confirmation email that requires subscribers to click a link to confirm that they do, indeed, wish to be added to the list. MailChimp and Constant Contact allow you add names and email addresses to my mailing list without sending confirmation messages. This is probably a reason why AWeber has a better track record of avoiding spam filters. Because every person on an AWeber mailing list has “confirmed” themselves, there is a much lower chance of subscribers clicking the “spam” button on messages they receive through the service.

3) Advanced auto-responder configuration. Both Aweber and Constant Contact have full autoresponder functionality that automatically sends new subscribers a series of prewritten emails over a certain period of time. While autoresponder messages require some advanced planning, they are powerful tools to help communication and provide information to your audience. MailChimp has autoresponder functionality built into their service, but it is only for paid accounts.

The downside to switching vendors

Many campaigns use MailChimp and Constant Contact successfully and are happy with their service. Once you commit to an email marketing service provider, switching over to another one is not a simple task. You can lose many subscribers in the process. For example, if you import a large list to Aweber, each person will need to re-confirm their subscriber status in order to receive your future messages.

If you do not yet have a mailing list for your judicial campaign, we recommend that you start one early.

Book Resources

Here are some books and resources to help with your judicial campaign.

Running for Judge: Campaigning on the Trail of Despair, Deliverance, and Overwhelming Success

The Campaign Manager: Running and Winning Local Elections

Running for Office as an Online Candidate: Web Strategies for Local Campaigns

Winning Local Elections: A Guide To Winning Local, County and Legislative Political Campaigns

The Political Campaign Desk Reference: A Guide for Campaign Managers, Professionals and Candidates Running for Office

 

Creating a Judicial Press Kit

 

Online judicial press kits are helpful in that the information can be kept up to date, and the information is easily accessible. The material can be added to its own section on the website or incorporated into the site contact page or linked elsewhere.

Traditionally, digital press kits are built into a series web pages where the goal is to sell advertising. Using that format on a campaign website is a little redundant, since the point of the site is to sell the candidate for judge

Instead, focus on making the press kit easily digestible information that can be easily downloaded and incorporated into media coverage about your campaign.

So what goes into a judicial online press kit? Unlike a physical press kit, an online press kit can be broken up so it can be downloaded in part or in whole. PDFs work well as a common file format for documents.

You can convert files or even web pages into PDF files through a free tool like PrimoPDF. Images can be grouped together and compressed into ZIP files. WinZip is a popular compression program, but there are free alternatives available such as jzip.

A basic online press kit includes:

  • A cover letter describing the judge and his or her campaign.
  • A judicial candidate biography. Don’t forget to add a photo and related web links.
  • Press releases related to the campaign.
  • Digital copies of logos, brochures, flyers, etc.
  • Photographs of the candidate and campaign. Consider offering several versions for download. Low-res files can be used for web, but print requires better-quality images for decent results.
  • Newspaper or other media excerpts. Rather than reprinting the material outright, you could create a document or PDF file with links.
  • Question and Answer sheet covering any major issues or items that cover the qualities that make the candidate a good judge.

Avoid fluff, and keep the material professional and up to date. Done well, a press kit creates a whole new media hub around a candidate and builds upon the overall campaign.

Reach out to local media early. Find out what reporters cover your area and send them a quick introduction and contact information, letting them know where they can find up-to-date information about your campaign.

Anything you can do to make a journalist’s job easier is helpful and, if you’re lucky, may lead to better media coverage for your campaign.

Creating a high-quality judicial press kit doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require some research and legwork. High-quality kits are designed to include the most accurate and useful information for your local media outlets.

4 Things Judicial Candidates Should Never Do Online

Today, more and more political and judicial candidates are getting themselves in hot water for things they say or do online. It doesn’t have to be this way. With a little knowledge, foresight and attention, any political candidate can create and maintain a positive online presence that will enhance their campaign.

Because there are so many potential online pitfalls, let’s focus on the most common errors that candidates make. These errors reveal a lack of online savvy and can often end up hurting a campaign or a candidate’s online reputation – and their chances of winning an election!

Assume You Have Privacy Online

First and foremost, anything you ever say, post or share online should pass the ‘New York Times Test’. That means, if you wouldn’t be comfortable with what you’ve done appearing on the cover of the New York Times, then don’t do it.

Try To Delete Material After the Fact

This seems to happens often with Twitter, though it can happen anywhere, even on an actual campaign website. A candidate or elected official makes a crude, rude or insensitive remark. Then they delete the post and pretend nothing happened. Unfortunately, social media posts can rarely be fully ‘deleted’ and pretending they never existed in the first place is silly.

If you must delete a post, do it, publicly acknowledge that you have done so, and move on.

Let Your Accounts Die Slow, Meaningless Deaths

If you start a social media account and promote it, you owe it to the people who follow you to keep your content fresh and up to date. People will either forget about your campaigign or wonder why they decided to follow you in the first place. Either way, it doesn’t leave a positive impression.

Spam Out

Bombarding your supporters (or worse, voters who are not actively following you) with automated or unwanted messages of any sort will only serve to annoy others – and can get you a reputation as a political spammer. Yuck.

The biggest offenders are politicians who purchase email lists and send out unsolicited messages. Even though political messages don’t actually fall under the CAN-SPAM act and are technically legal – it’s still spammy and generally unappreciated by the wider audience.

In fact, judicial candidates are probably better off keeping a ‘low key’ approach to social media campaigning. Personal opinions posted could be confused with professional opinions. It’s best never to mix the two.

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