Dec 07 2011

Voting for candidates, or voting for a name?

Published by under Opinion

A recent article in the Texas Tribune discusses the potential in statewide judicial elections for candidates to be selected based on criteria no less superficial than the ethnic indicia a name provides.

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The article, titled “The Cues Voters Use to Elect Unknown Candidates,” argues that “voters choose dozens of important state officials in every election without knowing a thing about them. So they rely on other cues — like political affiliations, pleasing names and who knows what else.” The article runs through some of the results of recent Texas appellate court elections, and tries to reconstruct the reasoning voters might have employed when making their selections.

Noting that the preeminent quality that voters in Texas are looking for is a “Republican ‘R’ behind [a candidate’s] name”, the article proposes that the real contest for officials occurs in the G.O.P. primary in March, giving even less time for voters to actually understand a candidate and make an informed choice, and leaving far less relevant qualities of candidates to serve as deciding factors.

The article poses the question, “When little else is known about two candidates in a G.O.P. primary, is a Hispanic surname a liability?” The judicial race in which Stephen Wayne Smith was victorious against Xavier Rodriguez for a spot on the Texas Supreme Court is used as an illustrative example. Little was known about either candidate going into the election. What, then, did diflucan sale the voters rely upon when making their choice? Names were all the public had available to them in the voting booth; it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether names decided the race.

When we elect judges in contested elections, we unconsciously – or consciously, as the case may be – impose our own biases and agendas onto the concept of justice, something that should be set wholly apart from politics, prejudices, and ideology. A judiciary must serve the people, but a judge’s fitness to serve should be determined by his or her ability to interpret the law and see that justice is fairly administered – not the ability to win votes, and certainly not by factors as inconsequential as a surname.

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Nov 11 2008

What’s In a Name

Published by under Judges,News

We’ve written before about name recognition being an important factor in predicting success in judicial elections.  And this story from the West Virginia campaign trail shows how true it is: “For the first time in history, a tomato-based condiment was the ticket to a seat on the state Supreme Court.”

The Charleston Daily Mail reports on the successful ad campaign run by Supreme Court candidate Menis Ketchum.  Playing on his unusual name, Ketchum ran two ads — one before the primary and one in advance of the general election– where a voter kept calling him “Ketchup.” Ketchum reports that his campaign’s polling reflected dramatic increases in name recognition due to the ads.

Name recognition is very important in these elections.  Indeed, Ketchum himself credits the ad as the most important factor in his election:

I worked hard, I worked continuously. . . . I never stopped. I met a lot of people. But I think the ketchup ad elected me.

What a way to choose judges.

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