Monday, October 17, 2016

Dr. Klumpp ponts out trend about numbers of judicial candidates; what does this portend for 2018?

A frequent and generous contributor to this blog over the years, Albert J. Klumpp, Ph.D., wrote in after seeing a comment on a prior post about the likely signature requirements for 2018 judicial hopefuls.

The comment, from this blog's most prolific commenter---Anonymous---notes that, because of the large voter turnout in the March Primary this year, signature requirements for judicial wannabees in 2018 are likely to be greatly increased. An excerpt:
The countywide signature requirement will be 3-4 times higher given the record turnout in 2016 due to the Clinton/Sanders contest. Some estimate it to be in the 6,500 to 7,000 range. In contrast, the signature requirement for 2016 was the lowest in recent history because of the pathetic 16% countywide turnout of 2014 attributable to the lame Governor's race. While many of the countywide candidates in 2016 submitted around 10,000 signatures, most of the non-slated candidates would have likely been tossed off the ballot if the anticipated 2018 requirement had been applied because most (if not all) did not have 6,500 GOOD signatures. Those professional circulators might net you 2,000-3,000 good signatures out of 10,000, but NOT 6,500. And even if the professionals start circulating all day from August to November, 20,000 legitimate GOOD signatures are hard to get and will cost you $20,000-$30,000 because they know they can charge a premium.
The "real action" in 2018, Anonymous opines, will be in the subcircuits, with their lower signature requirements.

Dr. Klumpp wrote that the comment prompted him "to look into something I've been putting off doing for a while. I had gotten the impression that in recent years the number of candidates running for judge has been declining noticeably. So I dug through all of my historical records and calculated the numbers of candidates per vacancy in every year since the current structure of judicial primaries began in 1974." He then put together this chart:

"Over the last few election cycles," Dr. Klumpp concludes, "the lack of competitiveness in seeking judgeships has been nearing Machine-era levels." What is particularly baffling about these numbers, Klumpp adds, is that they include all candidates for every Cook County judicial vacancy except for the Supreme Court -- including all subcircuits after 1992 and city only or suburbs only prior thereto. In every election cycle I've covered here, there are some races that seem to attract a daunting number of candidates (though not all make it to the ballot) -- but FWIW readers know there are a great many uncontested races, even in the subcircuits.

Dr. Klumpp says he has no explanation as to why the number of candidates per vacancy is dropping. I suppose the increase in required signatures in the subcircuits a few years back may have scared off some, but the signature requirements to qualify for the ballot in a subcircuit have always been (and remain) considerably less than the requirements for countywide hopefuls.

The discrepancy should be particularly large in 2018: I don't know about the precise numbers suggested by the commenter, but I've no doubt that there will be a higher signature threshold for countywide Democratic judicial candidates. Even though the signature requirements would be much lower, I likewise doubt that there will be a sudden uptick in the number of Republican countywide judicial hopefuls. The Republican Party may or may not join the Whigs on the dustbin of history, a victim of Donald J. Trump, but, whatever happens, or doesn't, to the Republican Party this November, it is extremely unlikely to lead to a Republican revival in the County of Cook.

But these may not be the only options for wannabee judges in 2018.

Philip O'Connor's op-ed in last Tuesday's Tribune suggests that Republicans disgusted with Trump might still come to the aid of their party by voting for the Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein. Enough votes for Stein, see, and the Green Party might become an "established political party" -- able to field candidates with relative ease in 2018, thereby potentially diluting the Democratic vote, and thereby---*gulp*---helping reelect Gov. Bruce Rauner.


Certainly -- but 2016 is a crazy year: Gary "Aleppo" Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for President, is the Tribune's choice over both Trump and Hillary Clinton. Enough voters might choose Johnson and thereby make the Libertarians an established political party for 2018, too. (O'Connor assumes that the Tribune's endorsement alone may make this happen; of course, that may be why the Tribune chose to run his op-ed.)

Can you imagine Cook County judicial wannabees filing as Greens or Libertarians for countywide races in 2018? Well, it's easier to imagine than the Republicans fielding a Cook County slate, isn't it?

And don't say it can't happen. Arguably similar things have happened before: The Solidarity Party became an established political party, for a little while, anyway, after the LaRouchies hijacked the 1986 Democratic Primary. And, for a while there, there was a Harold Washington Party....

There will probably be plenty of business for election attorneys in 2018 -- maybe even enough to significantly boost the number of candidates per judicial vacancy in 2018.

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