Oklahomans may face uncertainty about the judicial retention ballot they will encounter when they enter the voting booth Nov. 6. The state bar association has introduced www.CourtFacts.org, a website designed to explain how the merit retention process works while providing background information about the justices and judges on this year’s merit retention ballot.
Oklahoma Bar Association President Cathy Christensen of Oklahoma City said, “Right now, Oklahomans are being bombarded with information related to the elections, and some interest groups may use the retention ballot to promote their own agendas. Launching this website is our opportunity to educate voters that fair and impartial judges are critical to the success of a strong legal system.”
The website features complete biographies and photos of the four state Supreme Court justices and seven appellate judges on the retention ballot. Voters will also be able to access court cases and legal opinions authored by those judges and justices.
“Our intent in creating Court Facts is to provide voters accurate, nonbiased information – just the facts.” Christensen said. “I trust our voters to make up their own minds. Oklahomans understand that their independence depends on judicial independence.”
The website also details the state’s judicial selection process for appellate justices and judges, in which a nonpartisan 15-member Judicial Nominating Commission investigates, interviews and evaluates applicants for judicial office. The commission submits the names of three highly qualified applicants for to the governor, who makes the final selection. Justices and judges are retained in office “on merit” by citizen vote in nonpartisan,
noncontested elections by retention ballot. Those who receive approval from a majority of the voters may continue in office for another six-year term.
The website will be accessible through the Nov. 6 election and is planned to be a continuing educational outreach opportunity for the bar association.