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Why Judges Matter and Why You Need to Vote

I often have people tell me how they don't vote for judges -- or that they play the name game, voting for whichever "Mc" or "O'" appears on the ballot. When I ask them why they don't research who they are voting for, the most common answer I hear is 'I'm not a lawyer, so why do I care?'

This is absolutely the wrong attitude to take.

Often times, judges impact our lives in ways that we never realize. Judges can impact our neighborhoods -- from ruling on zoning matters, dealing with criminal cases or making important decisions on foreclosures -- to making decisions that impact our lives directly -- such as presiding over our traffic, personal injury, probate or divorce cases.

You may not realize it until it's too late, but the decisions made at the polls impact each and every one of us. Unless you're a hermit that lives and dies in the same Kentucky cave, at some point or another, your life will be impacted by a judge.

With very few exceptions (such as a judge appointed by the Governor), those judges will be elected. So it's important that you get to know the candidates who are running for office; their backgrounds; and their perspectives on the judiciary.

Luckily, in this area, we have several key areas that you can learn about judicial candidates. The League of Women Voters has an excellent online database of candidates, ranging from local judicial races to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Akron Bar Association also has an excellent rating system where judges and judicial candidates are reviewed by local attorneys. The Bar Association recently received press when it downgraded the ratings for two sitting judges -- Judges Todd McKinney and Judge Beth Whitmore -- for misusing their rating systems in marketing materials.

Cuyahoga County also has a similar rating website, Judge4Yourself.com, which collects information and ratings from a variety of sources to give viewers different perspectives on the candidates.

You can also locate information about the various candidates on their own websites, as well as on the websites of their political parties.

The various newspapers have also endorsed candidates. For example, you can click on and read the endorsements of the Akron Beacon Journal and Cleveland Plain Dealer. Other newspapers have their own endorsements, so you can Google/Bing your local newspaper and look up their endorsements.

But please -- don't skip the judicial ratings and don't play the name game. These races are too important, and you do not want to discover that the judge you voted for is not qualified, sympathetic or caring when you are standing in front of them for a personal or business matter.

So do your research and make sure you vote the entire ballot!

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