What is a Judicial Election?

The Cook County judicial system includes judges that sit on the Illinois Supreme Court, the Illinois Appellate Court, and trial courts that are divided into countywide and smaller “sub circuit” districts. Countywide judges are elected by the voters of the entire Cook County. Once elected, the candidate can be assigned to any division of the Circuit Court. In addition, judges can be elected through sub circuit elections.

The 15 sub circuits are geographic areas that all lie within Cook County. Subcircuit candidates must reside within the geographic boundaries of the sub circuit, and they are selected by the voters of that sub circuit only. Once elected, however, the judges from the sub circuits have the same powers as judges elected countywide, and can also be placed in any division of the Circuit Court, as well.

The sub circuits were created as a response to criticisms that countywide elections resulted in an insufficient number of minorities and Republicans on the bench in Cook County. In 1992, the Illinois legislature established the sub circuit system in Cook County, with the aim of increasing diversity on the bench. Each voter in Cook County will vote in countywide races and in a limited number of races to fill vacancies within their sub circuit.

The voteforjudges.org website reports the results of bar groups which receive information about candidates’ performance and recommend whether he or she is qualified to be a judge.

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