Florida Right Looks to Politicize Judicial Elections Through Voter Guides in Churches

Voter guides describing candidates for elected office and distributed through churches have long been a hallmark of the Religious Right groups like the Christian Coalition — which at one point lost its tax-exempt status for its involvement in political campaigning. Now, Florida Family Policy Council — the state affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, involved in the Terri Schiavo debate and in efforts to ban same-sex marriage — is preparing voter guides for state judicial candidates, who for the most part are elected or face an election after being appointed. According to an FFPC press release:

The primary goal of the [Florida Judicial Accountability Project] is to publish and distribute the 2006 Judicial Voter Guide, which will report information taken from questionnaire responses of every judge candidate on the ballot in Florida. The Judicial Voter Guide is strictly an educational service and will not rate or score judicial candidates in any way. The scope and nature of this project is unprecedented in Florida’s history. The FFPC anticipates at least one million copies of the 2006 Judicial Voter Guides will be produced and distributed this year in print, online and by electronic mail.

The 2006 Judicial Voter Guide will include all judicial elections and merit retention races at the county, circuit, district court of appeals and state Supreme Court levels. The voter guide will report on two major areas. First it will report on personal and family information, judicial philosophy, civic memberships, and charitable contributions. Second it will include the personal views of candidates on specific issues such as school vouchers, parental rights, abortion rights, assisted suicide, same sex marriage and criminal law. …

FFPC President & General Counsel John Stemberger is spearheading the Florida Judicial Accountability Project. Stemberger commented, “Before every election I get hundreds of requests for information on the various judge candidates on the ballot. Until now, we have had no information or resources to offer these voters. This tool will be one which will serve Florida voters for years to come, providing a source of public information on the judicial branch of government.