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Breaking down the ballot: How to research judicial races | Main stories

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) – With less than a week to go before the general election, voters are preparing to head to the polls to cast their ballots for their favorite candidates.

Dr. Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said it’s important for voters to know and understand each candidate before marking a ballot.

The Illinois general election includes key and high-profile races such as governor, Congress and state Senate. However, some central Illinois ballots will also feature races for district, appellate and supreme court judges.

>> How to check polling station information.

“This is probably one of the most difficult tasks for a citizen to learn to vote in judicial elections,” he shared.

Judicial races don’t usually feature television ads or big campaign signs. Dr. Redfield said political parties usually focus on legislative races.

“Trial court judges are supposed to represent the law, and they generally do.”

The Illinois Judges Association has adopted a Declaration on the Independence of the Judiciary aimed at keeping politics out of America’s judiciary ahead of the Nov. 8 general election.

>> the illinois governor’s race is drawing national attention.

“We are a unique branch of government where it really doesn’t matter what political party you belong to. We have to be impartial and rule by law,” said the IJA president and Illinois Appellate Judge Eileen O’Neill Burke.

The IJA, which represents 1,250 current and retired judges in Illinois, warns that judges are increasingly the target of politically motivated attacks that threaten to underscore the importance of judicial independence. Judge Eileen O’Neill Burke said the goal is to educate voters.

Asking which political party a judge belongs to is like asking which political party a surgeon belongs to. It has absolutely nothing to do with their work.”

The IJA encourages voters to learn more about judges, including the qualifications of judicial candidates and judges seeking to remain in office, who will appear on the ballot by viewing Illinois State Bar Association Ratings and Rankings.

>> What drives people to vote this year?

“The judiciary is one aspect of government that hopefully people will never have to deal with, but if you have to deal with them, you need someone who doesn’t hold the views of a political party. You need someone who is really looking for the law, the facts, hearing each individual case and making a decision based on that,” said Judge Eileen O’Neill Burke.

In addition to the ISBA website, Judge Eileen O’Neill Burke said sometimes counties have a bar panel where people can do more research on candidates.

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