Thursday, December 31, 2020

Sanjay Tailor appointed to countywide vacancy

The Illinois Supreme Court today appointed Associate Judge Sanjay T. Tailor to the countywide vacancy recently created by the death of Judge Diane Gordon Cannon.

The appointment is effective Monday, January 4, and expires December 5, 2022.

Currently serving in the Circuit Court's Chancery Division, Judge Tailor became an Associate Judge in 2003. Before becoming a judge, Tailor served as a Cook County Assistant State's Attorney, rising to the position of Deputy Supervisor of the Torts and Civil Rights Litigation Section. Licensed as an attorney in Illinois since 1991, Tailor began his legal career in private practice, working for the firm of Chapman and Cutler LLP. The Supreme Court's press release about the appointment is available here.

A Very Merry Christmas to all, and moderate expectations for the New Year

I know what you're thinking: Merry Christmas? Now? Christmas Eve was a week ago. Once again Leyhane comes in late and lame.

Which may be true -- but it's still Christmas. Did your true love give you seven swans a-swimming today? This is the Seventh Day of Christmas. The Shepherds are back with their flocks, perhaps, but the Three Kings are still following the Star. By now, perhaps, they've stopped off at Herod's palace to ask for directions, but they haven't yet found the place where the Child was.

Come to think of it, this story may provide a good explanation for why men (allegedly) have been reluctant to stop and ask for directions, even prior to the invention of Google Maps: Look at the terrible things that happened when the Wise Men innocently asked for directions to Bethlehem. No responsible person would want to ask for directions after that, right?

The Twelve Days of Christmas will continue into next week. The Wise Men will finally get to deliver their gifts on January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany. And, yet, many of my neighbors, and I'll bet some of yours, too, have already taken down their Christmas decorations. I understand that this year, in particular, many are in a hurry to be done with Christmas. Because after Christmas comes New Year. And with the New Year 2020 will be but a nightmarish memory. is running some clever ads that, I think, catch the national mood toward the year now ending -- in them, Satan meets his soulmate, 2020. In the picture above, the happy couple are having a picnic in an empty stadium -- emptied, we automatically realize, on account of COVID-19.

Since last Sunday, Brewster Rockit has been taking a not-so-fond look back at 2020. In a subsequent strip, one of the characters suggests that "its like 2020 was run by a super villian." A lot of people, I think, take that view.

And we certainly hope 2021 will be better.

But the 'Rona won't vanish with the last stroke of midnight tonight. Our ongoing two-week shutdown, now in its 10th month, will continue into an 11th and beyond.

Many people are thinking things will improve dramatically after January 20. "My new favorite palindrome - 12021" was making the rounds on Facebook a week or so ago. Things should be a little less crazy in Washington---I hope---on January 21. At least the early monrning Tweets from the White House will presumably cease.

But things are going to be rough for a lot of us for a long time to come. I don't know if the Loop will ever come back to anything like what it was: Business owners have seen for themselves that a lot of people can work from home. Why pay rent on offices in downtown skyscrapers? Leases will expire and not be renewed. Offices that must remain will downsize. And what will become of the buildings themselves? These were the golden geese of our property tax system. Their owners won't be making as much money; the buildings will not be generating vital tax revenue. And what about the conventions and trade shows that provided so much tax revenue. All of these associations have learned how to do virtual events now -- will they want to resume actual events, once public health authorities permit? City and County revenues are going to be woeful for the foreseeable future.

When will the courts fully reopen? How? Every sort of business owner is asking questions like this. Local authorities haven't received as much vaccine as was promised -- and have pushed out only a small fraction of what they have received. The pace will quicken. But, even so, it will be months, at best, before most of us will be vaccinated.

And when we are all vaccinated, will there be restaurants to visit? Will any movie theaters survive? Will live theater return? The White Sox should be competitive -- but will people be able to afford tickets?

The economic numbers aren't so bleak because, while so many were suffering, Amazon and Wal-Mart and Zoom and a lot of the tech sector thrived. The very rich got richer. But a lot of jobs aren't coming back. Not in 2021. Probably not ever.

So Happy New Year to all -- but don't get your hopes up that 2021 will be a great improvement over what we're living with now. Not right away. Maybe at some point. Whoopee!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Longest Election: Dr. Klumpp analyzes the Cook County judicial retention results

by Albert J. Klumpp

Two years ago Cook County experienced an election that was different from any other in its 54-year history of retention voting. Last month’s election, while not a carbon copy of 2018’s, had many of the same basic characteristics and indicates that what happened in 2018 was more than just a flash in the pan.

Concern over police misconduct and wrongful convictions continued to drive higher-than-normal levels of attention to the retention part of the ballot. Voter participation on retention judges was 70.02%, roughly equal to that of 2018 but reaching just above 70% for the first time ever.

Most of the past fluctuations in participation can be tied to changes in voting systems and ballot designs. 2018 and 2020 together are only the second instance of participation changes attributable to a substantive public policy matter (the other being the Operation Greylord investigation of the 1980s). Evidence of this is that nearly all of the 2018-2020 increase is attributable to Chicago voters and not suburban voters. Historically a higher proportion of city voters has skipped the retention part of the ballot compared to suburban voters, but in 2018 and this year, city participation rose to nearly equal suburban participation.

The base approval rate for the entire set of judges—that is, the rate for a judge with no name-cue advantages or informational disadvantages--was 75.3 percent, a historically typical figure and essentially unchanged from 2018’s 75.4 percent. Female judges had their best election ever, with a 3.5 point advantage relative to male judges. Historically their advantage had been 1.5 to 2 percentage points but began creeping upwards more recently, jumping to 3.4 points two years ago.

On the other hand, there was no significant racial/ethnic vote. Typically there is a small but detectable bump for having a recognizably Irish, African-American (based on US Census data) or Hispanic surname. But while 2018 saw one- to two-point bumps in all three categories, nothing of the sort was detectable this year. Certain wards and townships showed expected preferences--Irish names in the 19th Ward; Hispanic in Cicero Township; African-American on the South Side—but in the overall countywide numbers there was no meaningful advantage.

The most important characteristic of the 2018 election was the substantial use of voter information. Nearly one-third of the 2018 retention electorate (32.7%) voted based on some source of information—a newspaper or bar association, a social media guide, or one of the political or community campaigns against Matthew Coghlan. This year, despite the larger turnout typical of a presidential election, information use held relatively steady at 31.9%. Both of these elections eclipsed the previous high of 22.0% in 1988.

While the 2018 and 2020 figures are similar, their composition differs. One difference is a decrease in the county Democratic party’s influence. In 2018 roughly seven percent of the electorate followed the party’s instructions to support all judges except Coghlan. This year its influence was less than three percent, albeit with a larger electorate. The wards and townships where the party’s influence was greatest were largely the same in both elections, but the overall effect was lower throughout. Negative publicity over the Michael Toomin controversy undoubtedly hurt the party, but another factor may have been a decrease in the overall number and timing of party mailers (still looking for information to confirm or refute this).

In contrast, there was an increase in the impact of social media. The “Girl I Guess” voter guide that emerged in 2018 remained influential this year, with an estimated 4.2 percent effect (versus estimated 3.4 percent in 2018, likely but not provably higher). In addition, a bare-bones “Chicago Voter Cheat Sheet” prepared by two city political activists was statistically detectable in every city ward except the 41st, and had an overall impact of roughly 2.6 percent countywide. Together the two guides had a larger impact than any single bar association or newspaper.

As for bar associations, the ISBA’s ratings emerged in 2018 and 2020 to become an influential information source, worth roughly 3.5 percentage points in both elections. More media outlets have reported ISBA ratings in recent years and their reporting is having an effect. For instance, the suburban Daily Herald newspapers, which in the past had tended to report CCL or Alliance ratings in their pre-election coverage, instead emphasized ISBA ratings in both 2018 and 2020. In all of the suburban townships where the Herald newspapers circulate, ISBA ratings this year showed an influence of between six and eight percentage points.

Ratings from the CBA and Chicago Tribune measured in the 5-6 point range, as they did in 2018. There also was evidence, as in 2018, of Alliance ratings having a small but detectable influence where little or none besides the CCL’s ratings could be detected in prior years. This is difficult to pin down precisely because of the number and similarity of the ratings among all of the bar associations, but overall the numbers do suggest, as they did two years ago, that the Internet and mobile devices are being used by increasing numbers of voters to access information from more different sources than in the past.

Finally, the usual bit of fine print: the statistical estimates reported here are just that—estimates—and have margins of error, but all are considered highly statistically significant.

Albert J. Klumpp has been a generous and frequent contributor to FWIW over the years. A research analyst with a public policy PhD, Klumpp is the author of several scholarly works analyzing judicial elections including, most recently, "Evaluating Judicial Merit Selection," in the November 2020 issue of Arizona Attorney (the link will take you the magazine website; you'll have to click around a bit to access the article). Closer to home, Klumpp's recent publications include "Campaign Spending in Cook County Judicial Elections," CBA Record, Nov.-Dec. 2019 (p. 30)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Longest Election: Starting a look back at the 2020 election

Maybe it was done to generate interest -- and, not coincedentally, to divert attention from the seemingly certain Democratic nominee. Maybe it was done because they had no clear frontrunner (though many alleged movers and shakers were supposedly pining for Jeb Bush). Whatever the reason, in 2016, the Republican Party sought their presidential nominee using a reality TV format -- their own version of Survivor, The Real World, or I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here -- with roughly 25 Republican hopefuls.

Or roughly 24 Republicans and billionaire reality TV host Donald Trump.

The Republicans and, ultimately, the nation as a whole were shocked -- shocked -- when the reality TV host emerged from this hokey process as the nominee.

Still, the concept might have been retired, unmourned, but for the unexpected outcome (unexpected by any pollsters or pundits) of the 2016 election. It is apparently a fundamental law of American politics that, if a tactic works for THEM, no matter how stupid or far-fetched, it will be copied by US.

Maybe that's unfair to politicians. It works that way in other industries, too. Does anybody get a big-budget movie greenlighted these days without a comic book superhero angle? Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is also the best defense against ever having to have an independent thought.

Thus it was that the 2020 election started before workers could remove that unshatterred glass ceiling from the hotel ballroom. And, sadly, history will affirm that many Democratic Party leaders first responded to Trump's victory by casting about for their own billionaire TV host to run against Trump in 2020.

When Oprah turned them down, the Democrats came up with their own reality TV format -- not just an island, but a two-island mini-archipelago, with something like 50 wannabes, many of whom were known to others beyond their immediate families. One island was like the kids' table at a holiday gathering, with obscure contestants vying for the chance to move up to the grownup table, from which the eventual nominee would emerge. Contestants could be voted off the islands entirely, or demoted to the kiddie table, apparently on the basis of responses to the breathless emails that clogged our inboxes every morning. (Who won last night's debate? Vote now!) I'm only surprised there wasn't an 800-number flashing throughout each nightly program.

There's no guarantee that the reality TV format will be abandoned four years hence. Indeed, I'm seriously afraid that, in 2024, one or both parties may add a panel of party elders to help eager contestants craft their messages to the American people. (Congratulations! You're on Team Bernie!) The Republic might survive that... as long as the parties don't make the candidates wear costumes.

The onset of the Pandemic also contributed to the seeming length of this election season.

But it wasn't just the fact that we were stuck at home, seeking affirmation of our increasingly strident views from our like-thinking friends on Facebook, or performing pathetic dances on Tik Tok as the economy crumbled about us -- this election season really was longer than its recent predecessors, and on both ends.

Early voting started earlier than ever -- and, of course, the unprecedented numbers of mail-in ballots guaranteed that it would take far longer than usual to figure out who won. Indeed, you won't have to drive too far beyond the Chicago suburbs before you encounter some seemingly solid citizens who are not entirely sure that the national election is over even now.

But the 2020 election is over, even though, in a few local cases, discovery recounts and related court challenges will continue a while longer. So it's time to start looking back, and see what really happened and, potentially, use that hard-won knowledge to begin preparing for 2022.

By which time, hopefully, our two-week shutdown will finally be over....

Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers at this point. Among these:

  • Despite being bombarded with incessant messages about the necessity and virtue of voting, and despite a myriad of options for accomplishing this civic duty, roughly three out of 10 of our neighbors still did not bother to vote. Why?

  • Mail-in ballots unquestionably skewed strongly Democratic. But were they uniformly distributed among the population, or were there concentrated pockets of mail-in participation? If so, where?

  • Do any identifiable pockets of mail-in voters in Cook County correspond with nationwide patterns? Were there nationwide patterns?

  • Did local mail-in voters linger longer over their ballots, giving more attention to the down-ballot questions -- the judicial retention ballot, for example?

Definitive answers to some of these questions may be impossible to ascertain. But the next essay in this series, a guest post by Dr. Albert J. Klumpp, will suggest possible answers to one or more of these. And -- SPOILER ALERT -- Dr. Klumpp will thoroughly refute my unsupported perception that voters were more hositle toward retention judges this year than in recent elections. Stay tuned.