Thursday, July 26, 2007

Why do fewer voters cast ballots for judges?

A slew of reports come across my desk that tell a lot about what’s going on in North Carolina, and most of them have implications about choices we’ll face before long. For those who like to absorb data and analysis, take a look at the latest edition of “North Carolina data-net,” a politics and policy newsletter from the Program on Public Life at UNC Chapel Hill, on the declining public interest in voting for judges.(Scroll down on the home page to July '07 current report on the judiciary.)
The report by Prof. Ferrel Guillory and his staff notes how voters “regularly cast fewer ballots in judgeship races than in elections for governor and other state offices,” and notes the changes in how we choose judges. It also notes that a fairly new public funding mechanism used by most appellate judicial candidates “does not provide sufficient resources to run ‘effective’ statewide campaigns” – at least in comparison to other statewide offices. And it notes that making those races non-partisan also gives voters less information about candidates. The report doesn’t make a judgement on the success of the program because, with just two election cycles, there isn’t enough trend data.
And there’s a report on the difficulty that essential workers such as police and firefighters have finding affordable housing in the communities they serve and protect. The report was done by researchers for the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at UNC Chapel Hill for the N.C. Association of Community Development Corporations. The report, “Workforce Housing Needs in Brunswick County, North Carolina” focuses on one coastal county where land and housing prices have made it difficult for essential workers to live where they work. While the findings are based on Brunswick’s experience, they reflect the same sorts of trends that happen elsewhere in fast-growing urban areas such as Mecklenburg and Wake.
Who cares? Depends on whether you want firefighters or police officers or teachers or other essential workers who leave in your community and care what happens to it. “The lack of such workforce housing has a variety of negative impacts including difficulty in recruiting and retaining employees, and longer commuting times that result in increased traffic congestion and more air pollution,” write William Rohe and Spencer Cowan, the report’s authors.
The workforce report will be available soon via the organization's website. Click here for more.


Anonymous said...

I know why fewer votes are cast in judge races. In an Effort to keep citisens from knowing which party judges were in, N.C. lawmakers decided to drop the party tag from their names. When voters go to the polls many do not know who to vote for, which party they are in, so they skip the judges, that's a fact.

Anonymous said...

The records indicate voters avoid casting ballots in races they are not concerned about or familiar with. So more ballots will be cast for president, less for governor etc, down to dogcatcher. Ballot initiatives are the same. In the Mecklenburg County Nov 8, 2005 election, there were 4 bond questions on the ballot, yet each received a differing number of total votes. This would again indicate, varying levels of concern or knowledge.

Anonymous said...

I agree that vote numbers decline as we move down the ballot, however, I blame the legislature for the judicial races. Legislators in NC have had over one hundred years to change the method for selecting judges yet they wait until Republican judges are sweeping the elections to make the races non-partisan. Making the races non-partisan was a purely partisan move on the part of the legislature. They have some decent-sounding motives for the change but their timing shows the real motive. I go to the websites for the political parties to learn what I need to know about the judicial candidate. The parties are keeping the races partisan. I do the research. I am not interested in where he/she graduated law school and how many children he/she has, I want to know about ideology and demeanor.

Anonymous said...

If the only basis people have for voting for a judge is party, then I for one am glad they are skipping those races on the ballot. Judges should have nothing to do with politics, and vice versa. We don't need to pick unqualified judges with political agendas.

Anonymous said...

I understand that there is a true grass roots effort to encourage Judge Joe Freeman Britt a 71 year old retired Judge and former Prosecuter from Lumberton NC to challenge Elizabeth Dole in 2008.

If this effort is successful the people of North Carolina and America have an opportunity to put a true enforcer of justice in Washington and we all can rejoice.

This man is in the "Guiness book of world records" for putting the most people on death row in America. Republicans love him as well as Independants not to mention his own Democrats. I can only fantasize about watching Gonzales and the other liers in our Government attempt to sneak a lie by this Bible qouting tough as nails former Prosecuter and Judge. This true Southern Gentleman arguably is a bigger than life legal scholar who can adequately fill the voids left by Sam Rayburn, Jessie Helms and Terry Sanford, all true statesmen whether we agreed with them or not.

He will absolutely have my vote!!

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