Ohio Supreme Court races typically don't receive much attention. But the race in Ohio this election year is more significant because two races will determine control of the court. I sat down with Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael Donnelly on what's at stake.

In Ohio, Justices Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart's spots on the Ohio Supreme Court are up for grabs. Depending on how Ohioans vote could change the 4–3 Republican majority. But Justice Donnelly believes the focus should not be on a candidate's political party.

"Ohioans shouldn't have the perception that we as judges vote according to party label," Donnelly said. "If you're doing your job correctly as a judge you should earn the respect of all parties. Everything that we do as judges has nothing to do with partisan politics. We are there to follow the law, not make the law, even if we disagree with a lot, that's what we do."

Justice Donnelly agrees he sees judicial races becoming too embroiled with partisan politics.

"We should not even be running in partisan primaries if we're going to have an elected judiciary," Donnelly added. "We should be able to earn the support of both the Republican party and the Democratic party. Voters want maximum transparency. They wanted maximum fairness and they wanted efficiency. How many of your viewers have been in Domestic Relations Court where cases sometimes dragged out for years and years and it shouldn't be that way? We the judiciary is designed for two things to resolve disputes in an efficient manner and to protect people's rights."

Last November, Ohioans voted to enshrine reproductive rights into Ohio's constitution. Since then, some politicians have looked for loopholes, including placing limits on the judicial system.

"The judicial system exists for two reasons: to resolve disputes and to protect the rights that are enshrined into both our Ohio constant tuition and Federal Constitution," Donnelly added. "It's not about what our positions are on issues. If the law prohibits a certain type of behavior then that's what the judiciary is."

On the heated discussion of limiting what can be taught in the classroom to Ohio's youth, 21 News also questioned the Democratic justice on if it's constitutional, for example, to require religion or limit education on same-sex relationships or race.

"They rightfully restrict our speech as judges and judicial candidates because we do not want to let our biases affect the decisions," he responded. "That sounds like an issue that someone could challenge the constitutionality. I wouldn't want to be on record saying, because I haven't seen it. I like to keep an open mind. When I go out and decide the case, I listen to both sides and their positions on the law, and then I make a decision. So, I'm very careful about not letting my own biases affect the position. I just want to listen to the attorney advocate, and then I make a decision."

One of the main reforms Donnelly has been advocating for across the State of Ohio is the creation of an Ohio criminal sentencing database, which would bring transparency to the system's sentencing scheme.

"People want to believe that the sentencing outcomes that come out of our court are fair and proportional," Donnelly explained. "But unfortunately, in Ohio's sentencing scheme, sentences are all over the place. A lot of people believe that their sentencing outcomes are based on the individual proclivities of whoever judge you are assigned to in your case. So, you can go into one courtroom, under Ohio's present scheme, and receive an outcome of probation. And you could take those same lawyers and go before another judge and receive 20 or 30 years in prison. That's how bad the disparity is. And a criminal sentencing database would help correct that. And so we have to move very fast in implementing that."

Donnelly faces off against Republican Megan Shanahan on the ballot this November.