Monday, November 03, 2008

Today's CBA "vote no" ad is slightly misleading

Here is the ad inserted in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times by the Judicial Evaluation Committee of the Chicago Bar Association. (Some of the names appear toned differently than others in this copy, but that is a reflection of my limited scanning skills. No names were differently presented in the actual newspaper ad.)

The Chicago Bar Association does not endorse candidates for judicial office. None of the major bar associations do. But the CBA does rate candidates as either "Qualified" (and occasionally as "Highly Qualified") or "Not Recommended." (You can read what the CBA said about each of the retention candidates that it has found "Not Recommended" at this linked post.)

This morning's ad tells voters which current sitting judges ("Judges Running to Retain Their Seats") that it finds "Not Recommended."

But it also suggests that voters vote "no" on five other candidates, one running countywide, the other four running in subcircuit races.

The problem is -- and here is where the ad can be somewhat misleading -- in three of these five races there is no other candidate.

Kristyna Colleen Ryan, Dominique C. Ross, and Jackie Marie Portman were all assured of victory tomorrow when they won their primary races. There are no Republicans running against them; there are no Green Party candidates running against them. They are unopposed.

Voters wanting to follow the CBA's recommendations in these races may be understandably confused: They have no one else to vote for.

Kristyna Colleen Ryan narrowly outpolled the candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party, Paula M. Lingo, in a three-way race. Dominique C. Ross was not declared a winner in her neck-and-neck contest with former Cook County Bar Association President Stephen Stern until late August -- after a recount trial.

Only Jackie Marie Portman's race was won by a relatively comfortable margin. She bested two opponents, Nkrumah Lumumba Hopkins and Furmin D. Sessoms. Sessoms had been appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court.

In any event, the CBA can not influence the outcome of these three races at this point. And voters who usually vote only in general elections, and not in primaries, should remember, in the future, that many judicial elections are already decided when the polls close on Primary Day.


Anonymous said...

I found the ad misleading, for all of the judges, not just those running unopposed.

The ad says in big letters, "THE CHICAGO BAR ASSOCIATION URGES VOTERS TO ELECT QUALIFIED JUDGES," then it lists a bunch of judges' names below. Someone not reading the ad carefully might miss the smaller white-on-black text reading "VOTE 'NO' FOR THESE CANDIDATES" and think that the CBA was positively endorsing the listed candidates!

The ad would be a lot more effective if they put the word "NO" in giant letters next to the names, or put them all in a circle with a line through it, or anything to make it clear to people who are just glancing at the ad that this is a negative endorsement. Otherwise, people are only going to remember the names, and name recognition alone can win votes.

Again, the two parts of the ad that I notice first are the words "ELECT QUALIFIED JUDGES" and the list of names. I almost wonder if the ad is intentionally misleading.

The CBA should be lauded for doing a public service by trying to get the word out about which judges should be voted out, but they need to use a little more care with the formatting of their ads.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely right about this ad; you make a great point. Over-provision of information is a typical mistake that bar groups make in these types of publicity efforts; it greatly reduces the effectiveness of their findings at the polls. Results of past elections have shown without exception that simpler is better.