While much of the election focus for the 2012 will be on the Presidential races, numerous states will be electing members to the courts. At least three state legislatures are considering joining (and in the case of Wisconsin, rejoining) the list of states that allow for public financing of at least some of those judicial races.
I’ve mentioned Kentucky’s unique position: in 2014 the entire judiciary (save one or two judges) will be on the ballot. Over the last several years members of the state’s legislature have proposed public financing for the races, delivering speeches on the subject during the interim and trying to gather support. A 2012 version (HB 230) specifies the funding would come from state tax refund designations made on tax forms and by permitting (but not requiring) bar members contribute via their bar dues.
Wisconsin had a public financing system for its supreme court races but it was zeroed out in the latest budget. A new plan, one that would include most state-level elected officials, was introduced in Fall 2011. Under AB 317 and SB 213 taxpayers could designate $1 of their state income taxes to an Election Campaign Fund. Whatever funds are in the Fund would be all that was available for that particular election year(s).
Ohio’s HB 413 focuses on creation of a public financing program for supreme court races only in that state, but does include a trigger provision allowing for expansion to include races for court of appeals if the fund ever reaches $6 million. Funding would come from a designation of tax refunds on tax forms.