Election Day: Here comes the judge … you don’t know

Don’t treat judge votes like the Scantron multiple choice test you didn’t study for

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Mar 3 · 3 min read
Photo credit: Quintonio LeGrier/Pixabay

If you had a winning lottery ticket in your hand right now and asked me to name five judges on any of the Primary Election Ballot, I would just look at my checking account and go “It is what it is.” And I’m pretty certain that I’m not alone. While voters may have strong opinions on who they want to win the presidential primaries on Super Tuesday and which State Senators and State Representatives they have strong opinions about, when that ballot is turned over, all of these random names are staring them in the face: State’s Attorney, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioners, Appellate Court, Circuit Court and Ward Committeperson. I don’t know these people.

What caught my attention more was judges with kids who were accused and arrested for armed robbery, judges overturning jury decisions after police brutality cases, judges who had a reputation for being late, judges who had ill tempers, judges who would be the first minority/LGBTQ+/openly transgender, judges with minimal courtroom experience, and judges who worked on topics that I’m extremely interested in.

But there’s something that just doesn’t sit quite right with me about going to a company’s ballot site and just clicking a bunch of names that that group thinks are OK. I want to make my own decisions, and it’s very possible that a judge who was endorsed by a particular group is more worrisome than celebrated by me. So I purposely chose a mail-in ballot for the past few elections so I can take my time voting and look up some candidates beforehand.

If you’re interested in doing this too, specifically Chicago voters, I highly recommend checking out the following sites:

WTTW (Chicago’s NPR)’s 2020 Voter Guide: Find out exactly what these representatives look like, their political statements, a Q&A, what their most “pressing issues” are and more.

Injustice Watch: Cook County’s 2020 judicial primary elections: My mind was blown by this checklist. If you just look at a judge’s resume overall, pretty much all of them look good. Maybe you’ll shrug at whether they’re “qualified,” according to the Chicago Bar Association, Chicago Council of Lawyers or the Illinois State Bar Association. But what caught my attention more was judges with kids who were accused and arrested for armed robbery, judges with unlocked (and found) weaponry, judges overturning jury decisions after police brutality cases, judges who had a reputation for being late, judges who had ill tempers, judges who would be the first minority/LGBTQ+/openly transgender, judges with minimal courtroom experience, and judges who worked on social justice topics that I’m extremely interested in.

Unless you run into a case that is so well-known that you can’t help but to know who the local politician is (ex. Kim Foxx vs Jussie Smollett) or even a national case (ex. Genece Brinkley vs Robert “Meek Mill” Williams), it’s just not something that may be on your radar. But if you’re even slightly interested in criminal and/or civil justice for you and your family’s sake, at least take a casual browse at your local judges before you just randomly fill in a circle straight down the back of the ballot.

On Election Day, you have every right to leave any area blank if you don’t feel you are qualified or desire to vote for anyone. The Election Judge will bring this to your attention and double-check that you are OK with these areas being blank. Say “yes” should you so choose. But keep in mind that by not voting for anyone, you are helping someone you unequivocally don’t agree with make it right back to their congressional seats and courtrooms. Vote wisely.


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Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

15-year vegetarian journalist/editor; part-time dog walker and dog sitter; Toastmasters member and 5x officer; WERQ dance and yoga enthusiast; Shamontiel.com

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