Democracy depends on voters casting informed ballots, but even the most well-intentioned voter can struggle when it comes to electing judges.
In 2018, the Circuit Court of Cook County has 39 openings for judge to fill — 10 for all voters in the county to vote on, and 29 scattered across the county's 15 subcircuits.
This is where the Benchmark Judicial Voting Guide can help.
The Benchmark Judicial Voting Guide ( www.benchmarkjudicialvotingguide.com/guide/ . ) recommends candidates running for judge in Cook County, based on publicly available data . The recommendations are based on ratings from 12 Chicago-area bar associations, a threshold of 15 years' experience, and analysis of write-ups from the Chicago Council of Lawyers, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Association. The Guide presents recommendations in a straightforward format so voters can feel confident in casting their ballots.
"Cook County voters too often find themselves without useful information about judicial candidates or no time to focus on ratings from local bar associations to make the best choices when electing judges," notes Susana Darwin, Benchmark's chair. "The Benchmark Judicial Voting Guide provides transparent, independent voter information from reliable public sources, and it's all in one place.
"I served on judicial evaluation committees for more than 20 years before stepping away to form the independent Benchmark PAC for Cook County Judges," Darwin continues. "Bar groups focus on issuing ratings on all candidates in all races. But too often voters lack access to key information that will get the best qualified candidates elected. This is where the Benchmark Judicial Voting Guide comes in."
The Benchmark Judicial Voting Guide aggregates ratings from the 11 bar groups that are members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening and from the Chicago Bar Association. The groups issue their ratings after completing background investigations and interviewing candidates seeking to be elected to the bench.
Benchmark criteria for recommended candidates:
- at least RECOMMENDED or QUALIFIED by ALL Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening groups and the Chicago Bar Association;
- at least 15 years in law practice; and
- analysis of public write-ups from the Chicago Council of Lawyers, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Association
Voters may access the Benchmark Judicial Voting Guide while in the voting booth — either on a handheld device or on paper.
Website: www.benchmarkjudicialvotingguide.com .
Benchmark recommendation sources:
The Benchmark Judicial Voting Guide is a project of the Benchmark PAC for Cook County Judges. Disclosures and reports are available at elections.il.gov .