Florida Bar, allies unveil voter education campaign about judicial merit-retention elections

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The Florida Bar, the American Bar Association and the League of Women Voters of Florida on Monday unveiled “The Vote’s in Your Court,” a campaign designed to education voters about judicial merit-retention elections. The effort comes ahead of what is expected to be hard-fought retention campaigns for Supreme Court Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, who face criticism from conservatives as the core of the court’s liberal majority.

Former Gov. Reubin Askew, who pushed for the merit retention system while in office, said Monday the system has served the state well. “As Floridians, we should be proud of our merit selection and merit retention processes,” he said. “They help keep politics out of the courtroom and go a long way in promoting fair and impartion court proceedings.”

According to the Florida Bar, research shows that the overwhelming majority of Floridians don’t know much about retention elections. “As a result of this lack of understanding, I am concerned that there will be opportunities for misinformation and no real way to check misinformation,” said Scott Hawkins, president of the organization. But Hawkins stressed his group is not taking sides in the November balloting. “This is not a partisan effort, and the Florida Bar is not endorsing any particular candidate,” he said. “We are endorsing the system which has operated uniformly for nearly 40 years.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.