Friday, March 02, 2012

Endorsements vs. evaluations

I am spending a lot of time these days trying to track down and confirm the many different endorsements being claimed by Cook County judicial candidates.

It's not that I don't believe them -- I do! -- but the motto of the old City News Bureau was, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." I'm a lawyer, not a journalist, but this seems a useful policy even for an amateur like me. Also, it strikes me as unfair to report only that Candidate A was endorsed by the Butchers, Bakers & Candlestick Makers Union when Candidates B, C and D were also endorsed by that group. Candidate A usually doesn't know who else received an endorsement that he or she wants to publicize.

In reporting both endorsements and evaluations on this blog, I recognize that I run the risk of creating confusion between the two.

Endorsements and positive evaluations (like "Qualified" or "Recommended") are not the same. As you look at the ratings issued by the bar groups you will note that, in some races, every candidate, or nearly every candidate, has been qualified or highly qualified by every group. Obviously, the voter can not vote for all of these. In a couple of races, some bar associations may find that no candidate is qualified. But that bar association is not telling voters to refuse to vote in that race.

Voters reading through the evaluations of the various bar associations will find that, sometimes, the groups disagree with each other. This does not mean that one group is right or the other is wrong. It does mean that hard-working judicial evaluation committees sometimes reach different conclusions even though they are evaluating the same data. Reasonable people can sometimes differ.

The Chicago Bar Association and the members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening do not endorse any candidate; they provide their evaluations so that you, the voter, may make a more informed decision when you vote.

On the other hand, a group that makes an endorsement is suggesting that you vote for a particular candidate. Whether you, the voter, will find an endorsement persuasive in a given race will presumably depend on your knowledge of, and trust in, the group making the endorsement.

Evaluations and endorsements are tools for voters to use. It is up to each voter to decide how much weight to give any particular evaluation or endorsement.

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