We've all seen a ton of "I Voted" stickers today, but the vote bragging is also happening on social media. Simon Rogers, Twitter's data editor, created this map using geotagged tweets with the hashtag #IVoted or the words "I voted" starting at 6 a.m. on election day. (It's unclear how many of them were tweeted by cats):
Most people don't think about judicial elections until they find themselves staring at a group of unfamiliar names on the ballot. But judges are selected by voters in 39 states, whether in an initial election or a retention election after being appointed. The explainer below details how special-interest money has increasingly flooded the system over the last several decades—including the first ever set of data on campaign money in lower court races.
This year's election in the Tar Heel State will be the first in 10 years that won't have public financing at its core. The state Legislature defunded the program in 2013, even after 14 of the 15 judges on the state's Court of Appeals urged that it be maintained. In that context, the four Supreme Court candidates in 2014 are facing waves of outside spending. In a primary in May, Democratic Judge Robin Hudson faced off against Eric Levinson, a Republican, and attorney Jeanette Doran, another Republican who entered the race the day before the cutoff to file for candidacy. Roughly $1.3 million was spent on the primary alone, the bulk of which went toward campaigning against Hudson. One of the ads run against her accused her of siding with child molesters; it was funded by the Republican State Leadership Committee, which this spring launched an initiative focused specifically on state judicial elections. The operation, which aims to elect conservative judges, gets funding from entities including the US Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, and Koch Industries. Hudson survived the primary challenge and faces Levinson next week.
Eight candidates are running for three open seats on the Michigan Supreme Court, where more than $1.2 million has been spent on TV ads, according to Justice at Stake. Michigan led the way in TV ad spending in judicial races in the 2011-12 cycle as well, with the state's Republican and Democratic parties and the Washington, DC-based Judicial Crisis Network combining to outspend the candidates themselves by a factor of 3-to-1. Michigan also has the dubious distinction of having some of the nation's worst campaign finance disclosure laws; in 2012, the New York Times reported that "records were set for both spending and lack of accountability." In that cycle roughly $5 million in spending was reported by candidates, parties, and partisan groups, while an independent review found at least an additional $13.8 million was spent under the radar.
Terrorist sympathizer. Friend to criminals. Pedophile supporter.
Nasty political ads using these innuendos may be familiar from the darkest corners of congressional and presidential politics—but these days they're used to bring down judges too. State judicial elections, once sleepy and mostly cordial affairs, are in many cases now multimillion-dollar slugfests, thanks to an unprecedented tide of partisan money in play. Spending by outside groups in particular has soared over the last decade and a half, with much of the money funding these attack ads. Below are some of the most down and dirty used in recent campaigns. (For much more on how dark money is taking over judicial elections, see our explainer.)
"Sides with child predators"
Launched by a partisan group called Justice for All, this ad ran against North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Robin Hudson during the May 2014 primary election. Hudson weathered the storm, and will face Republican Eric Levinson in November.
"Denying benefits to cancer patients"
The Michigan Democratic State Central Committee ran an ad attacking three Republican candidates for the Michigan Supreme Court during the 2011-12 election cycle. The ad ran more than 550 times at an estimated cost of $364,000.
"He called her 'a total bitch'"
Bitter tensions among Wisconsin Supreme Court justices led to this ad, which blasts Justice David Prosser for calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson "a total bitch" in a 2010 incident, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The ad, sponsored by the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee, ran 134 times during the 2011-12 election cycle at an estimated cost of nearly $41,000.
"Protect our children, not sex offenders"
Another ad from the 2011-12 cycle in Wisconsin, this one accused Prosser of shielding a child molester from prosecution. Aired by the Greater Wisconsin Committee, the ad ran nearly 1,100 times at an estimated cost of $475,000.
"Sided with criminals"
This ad, run during the 2011-12 cycle in Kentucky, attacked then state Supreme Court Justice Janet Stumbo using a racially charged smear that juxtaposed the mugshots of two black convicts with images of pregnant white women. The opponent who defeated Stumbo, Will T. Scott, denied that the ad was racist; it ran 71 times at an estimated cost of $38,000.
"Imposing gay marriage"
The 2010 Iowa Supreme Court retention race made national headlines when three sitting justices were voted out after unanimously ruling in support of same-sex marriage. In 2012, conservative groups worked to oust another justice, David Wiggins, who had participated in the unanimous decision. This ad, sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage, ran 145 times during the 2011-12 cycle at an estimated cost of $86,000. (Wiggins prevailed, winning by 8 points.)