How to Research Judges on Your Illinois Ballot This Election

A majority of the names on your ballot this election are judges, who are either running for the first time to fill a vacancy or are up for a retention vote, which is a yes-or-no vote to keep a judge on the court after each term on the bench is up.

Judges in Illinois are elected from specific districts or circuits, not statewide, so the judges on your ballot will be different based on where you live.

This year, there are two vacancies and one retention vote on the Illinois Supreme Court. On the Illinois Appellate Court, there are three vacancies and six retention votes.

Then there's Illinois' circuit court system. The state's 24 judicial circuits deal with millions of legal cases every year, on everything from crime to civil lawsuits, divorce, adoption, eviction, traffic tickets, workers' compensation, wills and more - if it involves the law, it goes through the court system.

There are two types of judges in Illinois' circuit court system: circuit judges, who are elected by voters for a six-year term and then up for a retention vote thereafter, and associate judges, who are appointed by other judges.

In Cook County, two-thirds of the roughly 400 judges are elected - either countywide or on a subcircuit, which is a particular portion of the county, similar to a district. This year, there are 62 judicial retention elections on the ballot in Cook County and dozens more retention votes in other circuits around the state.

There are plenty of resources to help you decide who to vote for and who to retain, including evaluations of each judge by several local bar associations (organizations made up of attorneys).

You can find those recommendations on judges' qualifications from organizations like the Chicago Bar Association, the Chicago Council of Lawyers and the Illinois State Bar Association, among several others, on

For a more in-depth analysis, Injustice Watch has compiled information on each judge, including which division of the court they're in, any noteworthy cases, a record of reversals of their rulings, how harsh or lenient they tend to be in sentencing, and more.

For more resources to help prepare you to cast your ballot, visit NBC 5's Illinois Voters' Guide here.

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