Illinois' primary election is just around the corner. Mail boxes are starting to fill up with campaign mailers and the airwaves are getting crowded with one political commercial after another.
Voters have some important choices to make on March 20th. All state lawmakers are on the ballot and there are important local elections throughout the state. There are also some important judicial elections on the ballot as well.
Judicial candidates may be at the bottom of the ballot but this does not mean these races should be ignored. Judges wield extraordinary and largely unchallenged power. A judge has the power to on the one hand provide protection for those who have been harmed and on the other hand dispose of frivolous lawsuits that clog our courts. Good judges strive to wield this power wisely, which is why we as citizens need to pay attention to the individuals we elect to serve on the bench. The foundation of a properly functioning system of justice begins with the outcome of these judicial elections.
Sadly, most voters know very little about the people seeking a spot on the bench. In our media driven culture, the only type of judges we seem to know anything about are the judges on reality TV shows such as "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars." Nothing against Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, but what happens in our local courthouses has a much greater impact on our communities than anything that has ever happened on "American Idol."
Illinois is ranked the 6th-worst state in the nation for legal fairness according to a report from the respected Harris polling company. Our state is also home to three of the worst "Judicial Hellholes" in the country. According to the American Tort Reform Association, a "Judicial Hellhole" is "a place where judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner."
The importance of judicial elections cannot be understated. Citizens should take the time to educate themselves about the various judicial candidates on the ballot on March 20th and make sure to cast an informed vote.
One of the best resources available is online at www.illinoisjudges.net. This site provides links to news articles and other information about judges on the ballot through the entire state of Illinois.
Good judges DO matter. As citizens, it is our responsibility to do our part by electing judges who will make impartial decisions based on fair consideration of the facts and law and who won't bow to political or economic pressure. We need judges who are qualified for the job.
The truth is judicial elections can often be decided by 100 votes or less, and so every vote really does count in these elections. Too much is at stake this year to skip these important down ballot races.