On Election Day, the largest segment on the ballot is the most ignored. For the past six years, a Chicagoland nonprofit has worked hard to change that.
Injustice Watch again developed a Judicial Election Guide to prepare voters for what can be an overwhelming bottom of the ballot.
“This part of the ballot tends to have a reputation as being long and boring and you don’t know who any of the names are,” said Maya Dukmasova, senior judges reporter for Injustice Watch. “Using the guide makes it more interesting. When you know who is on the ballot, it makes the process of voting more engaging.”
The digital guide gives users a preview of their ballot with comprehensive profiles of each candidate. The profiles include work history, community involvement, campaign finances, survey responses, bar-association ratings and any controversies.
Users can then print or save their ballots — with or without candidate selections — to use as reference inside the voting booth.
One thing the guide does not include is endorsements or recommendations.
“People are not aware of who these judges are and are not able to make informed decisions when they vote,” Dukmasova said. “We used our newsroom to produce an informative product for people to use in the voting booth, not to tell people who to vote for.”
Cook County is divided into 15 judicial districts. New Trier Township is split between the 9th (Wilmette, portions of Kenilworth and Northfield) and the 12th (Glencoe, Winnetka, portions of Kenilworth and Northfield).
Twelve contested elections will appear on local ballots — two appellate races (10-year terms) and 10 circuit-court races (six-year terms).
Dukmasova has researched and reported several stories related to judicial elections, including a recent piece on how judges rarely are voted out of office in Cook County. With that in mind, she said, choosing who takes office is critical and that begins in the primary.
“The vote in the primary is really a vote in which voters are deciding whether to put someone on the bench indefinitely,” Dukmasova said.
She added, “Judges are the elected officials that we are all most likely to encounter in our lives. Judges make decisions that have concrete and immediate impacts on our lives. … We encourage people to take these elections seriously.”
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