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THE INFORMED VOTERS. FAIR JUDGES. PROJECT

The National Association of Women Judges "Informed Voters. Fair Judges" project is a nonpartisan voter education project developed to increase the knowledge of our citizens regarding the judicial system because lack of knowledge threatens fair and impartial courts, which are the cornerstone of American democracy.

The project goals are to provide educational materials to voters about the role of judges and courts in our American tripartite system of government; to discuss the importance of the state courts to voters' communities, safety, families and jobs; to explain to voters how a state's judicial selection and election systems work; to inform voters that the qualities that make a good judge are fairness, impartiality, and a willingness to decide cases based on the evidence presented and the law not on political or special interest agendas or out of fear of unpopularity; to help explain to voters that their votes will decide whether their state elects or retains judges who reflect these qualities so that justice will be for all, not a select few; and to apprise voters that they can fulfill their obligation to keep the courts fair by learning about a judge's qualifications and performance record to exercise an informed vote at the ballot box.

To meet these goals, the Informed Voters project developed an overarching, simple message: Voters can ensure that they have fair judges and equal justice in their state courts through their exercise of an informed vote. In its various layers, the Informed Voters message will discuss: the role of judges and the courts; how courts impact voters' lives; the qualities that make a good judge; why it is important for voters to elect fair and impartial judges who are free from special interest influence or improper political influence; why it is important for voters to be informed about the state's judges and courts; how voters can obtain the information necessary to inform their vote; and how and where voters can cast their informed ballots on election day. The Informed Voters project will not endorse any judge or candidate.

The Informed Voters message will be communicated nationally and in eight pilot project states Kansas, Tennessee, Missouri, California, Alaska, Florida, Iowa, and Washington. The pilot project was developed to determine if voters might benefit from a discussion about the role of judges and voters' obligations to ensure fair courts through use of an informed vote.

The Informed Voters message will be distributed nationally by NAWJ and its justice and community partners and at the state levels through our Informed Voters state coordinating committees, which are comprised of state justice and community organizations and business and bar association leaders. Various tools will be used to convey the Informed Voters message. For example, project members are preparing radio and film public service announcements, Web sites and Web page content, public service electronic advertisements, and social media messages that will be released nationally early in the 2014 state election season. Project members are also preparing items such as speakers' presentations, newspaper and newsletter articles, public service advertisements, and letters to newspaper editors, which will be adapted and used by the state coordinating committees to address voters in advance of their state's 2014 election.

At the conclusion of the 2014 elections, the Informed Voters project committee will evaluate the project and will conduct limited voter polling to determine its effectiveness. With those results in hand, NAWJ will make necessary project adjustments and deploy the Informed Voters project to all states using some form of election to select or retain the state's judiciary.