What is early voting?

Citizens may cast a ballot at one of the Cook County Clerk’s early voting sites, starting March 3, 2014. Otherwise, you can vote on March 18, 2014 at your polling place.

Why should I vote for judges?

Judges make lots of decisions that affect us personally, even if we aren’t involved personally in a court case. Judicial decisions have wide impact and usually last for a long time. Voting for qualified judges helps keep our courts impartial and fair.

What kinds of judges can I vote for in Illinois?

In Illinois, voters choose all judges. At the trial level, there are two types of judges. Subcircuit judges are elected from a defined geographic area and must live in that area. County-wide judges are elected by voters throughout Cook County and may live anywhere in the County. Once elected, both sub-circuit and county-wide judges have the same powers and may be placed in any division of the Circuit Court system.

Appellate Court judges are elected in five €œdistricts€ in Illinois. Cook County is one of those €œdistricts,€ and panels of judges on the appellate court hear appeals of civil and criminal cases from all over the County.

Where do judges get their money to run for election?

Most judges receive the endorsement of either the Democratic or the Republican Party and receive money from their Party to campaign. They also raise funds or use their own personal money for their campaigns. Judges who are up for retention (those judges who have already won an election and are trying for an additional term), run on a non-partisan basis and do not have the endorsement of either political party. They must raise their own funds to campaign.

What is a retention election?

Judges are elected for a specific term. Once that term expires, judges must run for retention in order to retain their positions. This November, nearly 60 judges are running for retention. Retention elections are non-partisan; existing judges do not campaign with the affiliation of either the Democratic or Republican Party. They may seek endorsements from individuals such as alderman or others, but they do not receive party endorsement. Judges running for retention must use their own money or raise money from individuals; they may not seek money from political parties.

The good thing for voters is that current judges seeking retention have a record of experience as a judge which can be used by the bar groups who evaluate judicial candidates. The evaluation of judicial retention candidates, can, by definition, be more precise and meaningful than evaluations of candidates running for judge for the first time, who can only be evaluated for their potential to be good judges. A judge running for retention must receive at least 60 percent of the vote in order to be retained.

How many people are running for judge in November?

In the upcoming election, there are nearly 60 Cook County judges seeking retention.

How could I possibly know enough to vote for all these people?

There are at least a dozen bar groups that interview the judicial candidates and evaluate their experience and temperament. Information from these groups can be taken into the voting booth.

The bar groups who participate in the evaluation of judicial candidates have reviewed some of each candidate’s legal work, talked to other lawyers and judges about the candidates, and had the opportunity to interview each candidate. Still, the bar groups don’t always agree on the fitness of the candidates. If you have questions about the rating of an individual candidate, contact that individual bar association for additional information. A list of participating bar associations and their contact information is included on this website.

How am I going to remember all this on Election Day?

Prior to each election, the local newspapers (including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Southtown, Daily Herald and the local Pioneer Press papers) will publish a summary chart of all of the bar groups’ recommendations regarding the judicial candidates. You may take this chart with you into the voting booth.

Can I get a sample ballot ahead of time so I can see who is running in my sub circuit?

Yes, sample ballots are available. You can get one by going to www.cookcountyclerk.com or www.chicagoelections.com.

Does it really matter if I vote for judges?

Absolutely! Judges make decisions about fundamental issues that affect all of us (family life, education, health care, housing, employment, discrimination, civil rights, public safety, etc.), and those decisions can have long-lasting impact. It is critical that our judges make fair decisions based upon open-minded and unbiased consideration of the facts and the law in each case. Judges must know the law, be independent, and be free from external political and economic influences. Voting for qualified judges really does protect the courts – for all of us!

For more information about elections in Cook County, visit the County Clerk’’s website: www.cookctyclerk.com/ or the City of Chicago Board of Elections’ website: www.chicagoelections.com

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