My state’s primary ballot arrived in the mail last week. Some of my choices are easy, such as choosing among the fifteen – fifteen!- candidates running for the U.S. Senate. But some of the choices stump me, particularly one three way race for a local judge position.
Reading each candidate’s statement for this nonpartisan and very influential spot is a bit like attending open school night. Have you ever heard a teacher get up and say that she will only be catering to 30% of the class or that she isn’t actually competent to teach 5th grade math? Neither have I. So, it isn’t surprising that all three of the potential judges believe that the courts are foundations of our society and that it is important for all citizens to feel that they can get an impartial hearing. But like the classroom where too often high, publicly stated ideals don’t always carry over in the daylight, judges are not accountable to uphold their lofty stated sentiments.
In the past, when voting for judges I relied on the vetting done by a dear friend who was a retired State Supreme Court Justice. I trusted both his knowledge of the law and the legal system, and his evaluations of personalities. When he passed away, our family’s personal loss was great, but our civic responsibilities suffered as well. Since that time, we find ourselves continually trying to find someone with first-hand knowledge of the individuals asking for our vote.
I find the signs that all three judges have placed on our city’s main thoroughfare to be personally offensive. A yard sign on private property means that an individual homeowner is publicly offering support to a candidate. Signs on city property suggest a belief in stupid voters who equate name recognition with quality. It may be a correct assessment of the electorate; but it is a depressing one nonetheless.
So, my ballot is sitting here, filled out other than for one blank space. Like most productive citizens, I have limited time to devote to a detective hunt tracking down information. I will keep the ballot unsealed for a bit longer hoping that some clues will turn up, but particularly in a state where not long ago voter fraud actually decided an important election, the judiciary is too important to be discounted.