Program encourages Texans to vote in judicial contests

Marilyn Tennissen Oct. 8, 2008, 11:59am

Three justices on the Texas Supreme Court face opposition in the general election next month, but according to a recent poll most Texas voters will skip over the high court and other judicial contests on the Nov. 4 ballot.

A survey released Oct. 8 revealed that only 64 percent of voters said they usually cast a ballot in judicial elections.

For those that did vote in the contests, a candidate's judicial experience and judicial philosophy were mentioned as the top two most important factors when choosing whom to support in statewide and local judicial contests.

But more than 3 in 10 voters said they voted in none or only some of the judicial contests and of those 74 percent said they simply did not know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision.

To help voters make an informed choice in November, a lawsuit abuse watchdog organization launched an educational campaign Wednesday called "Good Judges Matter."

"From schools to the environment to health care, our judges make decisions that can impact our daily lives; yet, in the last presidential election cycle, almost half a million voters didn't cast a ballot in the one contested Supreme Court race on the ballot," said Mike Hachtman, a Houston-based board member of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.

"From a recent survey, we know Texans are interested in their judges and they know that good judges who fairly interpret and apply the law matter. But we also know that many simply don't feel they are informed enough to cast a ballot in these important elections. Good Judges Matter will give voters a resource to learn more about the judicial candidates and the background they need to make an informed choice in November."

Norman Adams, a board member of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse-Houston said Good Judges Matter provides information about the experience, values and philosophy each candidate would bring to the court.

"Our goal is to empower voters with the information they need to make an informed choice at the polls," Adams said.

CALA said the number of voters who skip judicial elections varies by election year but in the last presidential election about 500,000 of the 7.4 million voters who went to the polls did not cast a ballot in the one contested race for Texas Supreme Court.

In non-presidential election years, the drop off from the top of the ticket to the judicial contests can range from between 100,000 to almost 1 million voters, according to an analysis of election results posted on the Texas Secretary of State Web site.

Despite the performance at the polls, a majority of Texans surveyed said they are interested in judicial elections at the state and local level, and when they learn more about the role of the high court, the interest increases by almost 20 percent.

"Our judges have extraordinary power and it's the duty of every Texan to learn about our system and the judges seeking our vote," Hachtman said. "In this election, we have the opportunity to vote in three contested races for the state Supreme Court and a host of local judicial contests. Our system gives Texas voters an important voice in determining who sits on the bench and we should honor that choice by making an informed decision."

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse is a nonprofit, nonpartisan grassroots watchdog organization dedicated to educating the public about the costs and consequences of lawsuit abuse and ensuring that the legal system is used for justice, not greed.

Additional details about CALA and the Good Judges Matter campaign are available at

The survey of 804 Texas voters was conducted by Baselice & Associates from July 27-30 and has a margin of error of ± 3.5%.

Texas Supreme Court Races on the Nov. 4 Ballot

  • Chief Justice, Supreme Court

    Wallace B. Jefferson - Incumbent, Republican
    Jim Jordan - Democrat
    Tom Oxford - Libertarian

  • Justice, Supreme Court, Place 7

    Dale Wainwright - Incumbent, Republican
    Sam Houston - Democrat
    David G. Smith - Libertarian

  • Justice, Supreme Court, Place 8

    Phil Johnson - Incumbent, Republican
    Linda Reyna Yanez - Democrat
    Drew Shirley - Libertarian

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