Supporters of publicly financed state Supreme Court elections hope a recent poll of 600 West Virginia voters will boost prospects for Gov. Joe Manchin's bill on the subject.
The Feb. 21-24 survey found 54 percent viewing the Supreme Court positively, but with 78 percent indicating that campaign contributions had at least some influence on decisions.
When first asked, 68 percent considered that a serious problem, and 52 percent said they at least somewhat supported a public financing program.
The pollsters then told those surveyed about the U.S. Supreme Court's recent appearance of improprierty ruling targeting state Justice Brent Benjamin's presence in a Massey Energy Co. appeal (phrasing found on page 5).
Those viewing campaign cash as a serious problem then jumped to 89 percent, with support of public financing rising to 61 percent.
Among other related findings in the poll:
- 62 percent supported an additional court of appeals;
- 91 percent agree that judicial candidates should disclose their contributors;
- 75 percent would require third parties to disclose their spending on ads in these races;
- 78 percent supported "requiring judges to remove themselves from any case in which one of the parties involved contributed money to help elect the judge."
Update: Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick tells The Associated Press that the court fees charged under the bill to raise some of the needed public funding could doom the measure in his committee.