In 2020 Cook County Voters Cast Ballots For Judges In Historic Numbers
Voters kicked out one judge up for retention and brought four others to the brink, marking the second election in a row that a Cook County judge lost a retention bid.
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CHICAGO More Cook County voters participated in judicial retention races this year than in any election in the past three decades, according to an Injustice Watch analysis of election data.
Participation in the retention races has generally trended upward since at least 1990, when less than half of voters, on average, made a choice in the judicial races. But this year, seven in 10 voters, on average, voted in the 60 Cook County retention elections.
Voters kicked out one judge up for retention and brought four others to the brink, marking the second election in a row that a Cook County judge lost a retention bid. Not a single judge lost retention between 1992 and 2016.
Its hard to say definitively why voter participation rates are trending upward. But judicial experts and community activists identified several potential factors:
On This Years Most Competitive Races
Newman: I think the Supreme Court race is definitely one to watch. Its the seat that was formerly held by Charles Freeman. It is a seat that was held by a person of color for the first time and so theres some racial dynamics there. Theres also a lot of money being poured into that race, in particular from one candidate, Shelly Harris, whos poured, I think, almost $2 million of his own dollars into that race, so youve probably seen ads for him on TV, which is where a lot of that money is going. So I think thatll be an interesting race to watch because its rare to have an open seat like that on the Supreme Court.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the play button to hear the entire conversation.
Next Check If There Are Contested Elections In Your District
There are two contested races for open seats on the Cook County Circuit Courts, in the 12th and 13th subcircuits. These districts are in Chicago’s northern and northwestern suburbs. For the rest of Cook County’s open seats, candidates are running unopposed.
Select your subcircuit below to unlock the race that will be on your ballot. Not sure about your district? Find it using Cook county’s interactive map .
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Minor Shifts Big Influence
Cook County has held judicial retention races since 1964, when a constitutional amendment stopped requiring that sitting judges run in partisan elections for judicial seats when their terms expired. Supporters of retention elections saw those races as a way to prevent political bosses from having complete control over the judiciary. Still, voters rarely exercised their power to kick anyone off the bench. A study by William K. Hall and Larry T. Aspin found that only 22 judges lost their seats from 1964 to 1984 out of nearly 1,900 up for retention across 10 states, including Illinois.
Voters in Cook County bucked that trend in 1990, when they kicked out a whopping seven judges. Researcher Albert Klumpp said its likely that so many judges lost retention campaigns that year due to overall low voter turnout, a national campaign to unseat incumbents, and because local newspaper editorial boards and legal groups published similar recommendations about which judges should lose their jobs.
Did you ever vote with the punch cards? They were terrible. You had this metal pushpin. It was like doing needlepoint, Klumpp said. Those changes might seem kind of silly and remote, Klumpp said, but at the bottom of the ballot, these minor things can have a big influence.
Bridging The Information Gap
Judicial retention races have historically posed significant challenges to voter participation. Retention candidates occupy the longest part of the ballot, and casting an informed vote can require researching dozens of candidates independently.
This year, several judicial election guides bridged the information gap in Cook County.
The 2020 Injustice Watch judicial guide reached nearly a quarter of a million online users between early October and Election Day. In comparison, less than 70,000 visitors accessed the guide in the month leading up to the last general election in fall 2018.
Stephanie Skora, who produces the increasingly popular Girl, I Guess voting guide, said that Injustice Watchs research helped inform the guides recommendations for which judges voters should give the boot. Skora made a similar voting guide for the 2018 midterm election but has noticed more engagement around judicial elections this year.
I think people are warming up to the idea that our votes in these races matter, and that despite the history, it isnt that hard to kick out a judge, especially if you have a campaign behind it, Skora said. I think the #DumpCoghlan campaign woke everybody up.
Carlina Green, 22, voted in her first Cook County election this fall. Green said she used the Girl, I Guess and Injustice Watch guides and shared them with her family and friends.
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On What The Guide Entails
Newman: We recognized that there was an information sort of hole, gap when it came to judicial elections, and so we go in-depth on candidates. We research their bios, we look into past controversies or potential issues. We collect the ratings that the various bar associations put together, and we put all that in an easy-to-use guide that you can get online.
The website gives you a few different ways to find what judicial subcircuit youre in. Thatll help you create a ballot thats geared specifically to you so that when you go into the polling booth, you know which races and which candidates youre going to see on the ballot. And then you can click on the bios, look through the information weve provided, look at the ratings and then select the candidate that youre interested in. Theres also an option to print out a PDF once youve done that so you can bring that into the booth with you and go prepared to vote for the judges that youre most interested in.
Success Story: Blue Island
On February 9, 2016 the Blue Island City Council voted to adopt a new redistricting plan that includes three majority black wards and one majority Latino ward . This is an increase of one Latino and one Black majority ward, and means that people of color will be able to elect their candidates of choice to a majority of the City Council in the coming years.The vote to adopt a new plan came after months of public hearings that were instituted in response to a pre-litigation letter sent by Chicago Lawyers’ Committee with the expert assistance of Jeff Cummings and Judd Miner of Miner, Barnhill & Galland and Jorge Sanchez of MALDEF. The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee worked with local activists from CASA Blue Island and the NAACP Far South Suburban Branch to bring dozens of community members to hearings to testify about what they want their community’s democracy to look like.
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To help voters navigate the options, the Chicago Bar Association, Chicago Council of Lawyers and Illinois State Bar Association have screened and ranked candidates based on their qualifications.
Judges who are elected to the Cook County Circuit Court have to stand for retention every six years and must receive at least 60% of the vote to be retained. All of the 62 judges seeking retention within Cook County received unanimous support from the bar associations except for the following circuit court judges:
Patricia Manila Martin Mauricio Araujo Diana Rosario
The three bar associations also screened and ranked each of the 39 judicial candidates. Find out how they evaluated the judges, below, or jump directly to their recommendations. We also created a printer-friendly list you can take into the ballot box with you.
The Chicago Bar Association evaluated judges based on integrity, legal knowledge, legal ability, professional experience, judicial temperament, diligence, punctuality and health factors. Candidates were ranked as highly qualified, qualified, or not recommended.
The Illinois State Bar Association conducted a detailed background investigation and an in-person interview of each candidate. Candidates were rated qualified, highly qualified or not qualified.
Note: Some judges received mixed ratings.
Ranked Qualified or higher by all three bar associations:
Ranked Not Qualified or Not Recommended …
Chicago Bar Association Releases Recommendations For Cook County Judicial Candidates
The Chicago Bar Association, the state’s second largest bar association, released its recommendations for Cook County judicial candidates running in the Nov. 3 election.
For the Illinois Supreme Court, the association found P. Scott Neville qualified. For the appellate court, the CBA found Michael B. Hyman highly qualified and Sharon O. Johnson qualified.
For candidates running countywide, the association found Chris Stacey and Lynn Weaver Boyle highly qualified. All other candidates were found qualified except for Tiesha L. Smith, who did not participate in the judicial evaluation screening process and was therefore not recommended.
In the 12th subcircuit, which includes parts of Wheeling, Northfield, New Trier, Elk Grove and Maine townships, the CBA found Patricia M. Fallon and Frank R. DiFranco qualified. In the 13th subcircuit, which includes parts of Schaumburg, Palatine, Barrington and Hanover townships, the CBA found Susanne Michelle Groebner and Gary William Seyring qualified.
For retention to the Illinois Appellate Court, the association recommended a “yes” vote for Aurelia Marie Pucinski and Mary Katherine Rochford. The CBA recommended all the Cook County circuit court candidates for retention except for Patricia Manila Martin and Mauricio Araujo, who were not recommended.
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Ask An Expert: Bar Association Ratings Explained
Bar associations, or groups of attorneys and judges, have begun releasing their evaluations of judicial candidates for the upcoming election. With 62 judges up for retention and two contested elections for open seats, the bar association ratings are an important tool in deciding a judges fitness for public office. Youll find the ratings from three of the bar associations in our .
The ratings process is complex, so we asked Malcolm Rich, the executive director of the Chicago Council of Lawyers, one of the local bar associations, to help explain it. Heres what he had to say.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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What is a bar association?
A bar association is a professional organization for lawyers. Some bar associations are organized around particular identities, like the Black Womens Lawyers Association or the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association, while others are general interest associations. Many bar associations are primarily concerned with furthering the best interests of their lawyer members, but some bar associations focus on systemic reform of the justice system.
Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice
Malcolm Rich, executive director of the Chicago Council of Lawyers.
How do bar associations evaluate judges?
Why are there so many groups that rate candidates?
Evaluations Of Candidates/applicants For Judicial Office
The LCBA evaluates judicial candidates in two differentways. The first way is a member
survey, in whichevery active attorney member of the LCBA receives a ballot. Regarding
the candidatesqualifications for judicial office, members are asked to respond yes or no to
questions relatingto the candidates integrity, impartiality, legal abilities, temperament, and
court managementability. Members are asked to evaluate only those candidates they know, and
a final questionasks generally whether the member believes the candidate meets the
requirements forjudicial office. The complete results of the member survey regarding the
Associate/Circuit Judgeapplicants are provided below (the LCBA only releases results
for thosecandidates rated by at least 25% of the members responding).
The second way the LCBA evaluates candidates is throughthe Associations Judicial
Selection andRetention Committee. The Committee is comprised of 16 members of the
Association whoare appointed for staggered three-year terms. The Committee meets when
judicial positionsneed to be filled and vets candidates based on an extensive application and
After interviewing each candidate, the Committee votesanonymously, with each member
choosing one ofthree rankings: Highly Recommended/Qualified*, Recommended/Qualified*, Not Recommended/Qualified*, or Not Rated. Candidates receivea “Highly Recommended/Qualified rating if at least 60% of the Committees voting
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Chicago Heights Voter Guide 2020
CHICAGO HEIGHTS, IL Early and mail-in voting are shattering records across the country. If Chicago is any indication, where early voting sites opened in the city’s 50 wards opened on Oct. 14, be prepared for a long wait if you plan to vote early or in person at suburban Cook early voting sites in the upcoming Nov. 3 presidential election.
Early voting sites open in suburban Cook County on Monday, Oct. 19, and will remain open until Monday, Nov. 2.
Mail-in ballot drop boxes have been installed at all suburban Cook early voting sites. More than 80 percent of American voters will have the opportunity to vote by mail in the Nov. 3 election, by far the most in U.S. history. Absentee voting is allowed for everyone in 34 states, and only six states require an “excuse” other than fear of the coronavirus to vote by mail Illinois isn’t one of them.
Whether you plan to vote by mail or in person, here’s everything you need to know about casting your ballot in Chicago Heights.
Early Voting Locations And Hours: There are 51 early voting locations in suburban Cook County. Prairie State College, 202 S. Halsted St., is one of the early voting spots people can cast their votes at. Find a convenient location near you on the Cook County Clerk’s website. Early voting sites will be open during the following hours:
8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 19 to Oct 23
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pct. 24 and Oct. 25
8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Oct 26 to Oct. 30 and Nov. 2
What’s On My Ballot?
Cook County races include:
History Of Election Protection
The 2000 elections were a wake-up call. More than four million Americans from all over the country were disenfranchised in 2000. People were denied the right to cast a voteor to have their vote countedby a range of problems, including faulty equipment, poorly designed ballots, and untrained poll workers, as well as voter intimidation and suppression efforts and other illegal actions by public officials.
Election Protection began in June 2001 as a pilot program for a special election in Virginia. Election Protection has grown since then so that today the 866-OUR-VOTE Hotline is available to voters in every state during general elections, and volunteers monitor polling places across the country to help ensure that no voters are disenfranchised at the polls.
Through its state-of-the-art hotlines: 1-866-OUR-VOTE and 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota , 844-Yalla-US , its website and 1-888-API-VOTE , and comprehensive voter protection field programs across the country, Election Protection provides Americans from coast to coast with comprehensive voter information and advice on how they can make sure their vote is counted.
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