The cast of “The West Wing” has a new policy crisis: getting voters to fill out the nonpartisan ballot on Election Day.

In a four-minute political advertisement released Thursday on YouTube, the show’s cast, including Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney and Richard Schiff, encourages voters to fill out the nonpartisan section of the ballot when voting on Nov. 6. One version of the advertisement points specifically to the Michigan Supreme Court race and mentions Bridget Mary McCormack, the associate dean of clinical affairs at the University Law School and a candidate for the Supreme Court.

The advertisement was, in part, due to the initiative of McCormack’s sister, Mary McCormack, an actress who played deputy national security adviser Kate Harper on the show during its last three seasons.

Mary McCormack, who Bridget McCormack said has been helpful in her election bid, asked her sister whether the advertisement might aid the campaign. When Prof. McCormack responded that she thought it would, Mary McCormack asked West Wing cast mates Allison Janney and Bradley Whitford, who she had kept in touch with most closely, to participate.

“And then it kind of snowballed,” Bridget Mary McCormack said in an interview Thursday afternoon. “I think it was very generous of everybody to give up their time and get it together.”

The video cost the campaign about $5,000, The Washington Post reported. The actors and other creative staff donated their time to produce the video, which took one day to shoot.

The video drew praises from across the Internet, as many national news organizations wrote about the ad. As of Thursday night, the video had received more than 40,000 views.

McCormack told the University’s chapter of the College Democrats at its mass meeting last week that her campaign is focused on raising awareness about voting in the state Supreme Court election.

“That is the whole project of this campaign, just educating the people who would vote for you anyway,” McCormack told the group. “You don’t have to sell any new people; you don’t have to convince any new people. You just have to convince people to fill out that section of the ballot.”

In an interview after the meeting she said she thinks most University students did not know that voting for Democratic Party candidates across the ballot doesn’t include candidates for state Supreme Court. Supreme Court candidates are nominated by the state Democratic Party, but are placed on the nonpartisan section of the ballot.

The ad never mentions that McCormack is a Democrat, but the President Josiah Bartlet, the fictional president in ‘The West Wing’ who was played by Sheen, was a Democrat and several of the actors, including Sheen have advocated for liberal causes in the past.

While she said she thought University voters are informed, few of the approximately 50 people who attended one of her events the week before knew to fill out the nonpartisan ballot.

She said many of them asked, “‘Oh, did they change that this year?’”

“No, it’s always been that way,” McCormack said. “So I think they’ve never voted in a Supreme Court election.”

LSA junior Alexandra Brill, the chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, said in an interview after the meeting that she agreed with McCormack, adding that educating voters on the issue will be a focus for the College Democrats. She called the low turnout among Democrats for Michigan’s 2010 Supreme Court elections the “biggest misstep that year.”

Only about one in four voters who fill in the presidential ballot choose to complete the non-partisan ballot, according to Brill.

That drop-off rate inspired her to encourage students to advocate for McCormack, for whom she interns, and the two other Democratic nominees for the Republican-controlled Michigan Supreme Court.

“The election is decided by such a small fraction of people that it’s really important that we change that,” Brill said.

Beyond working with organizations within the state, the candidate has also received national attention for working to increase awareness of an election category that often yields low voter turnout in Michigan.

Last month, McCormack appeared on Chelsea Handler’s talk show on E!, “Chelsea Lately”. Handler later donated $3,400 to McCormack’s campaign, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

McCormack has also been a successful fundraiser. As of August 24th, she had raised $317,830 and has $205,096 on hand, more than any other non-incumbent candidate for the state Supreme Court, according to the MCFN.

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