Ric Simmons


In order to combat this problem of voter ignorance, I recently created a website designed to provide voters with information about judicial elections...Creating the website posed unique practical challenges, such as how to gather the information about the candidates and how to present it to the voter in a way that was meaningful and useful to a non-lawyer. But it also raised even more fundamental questions about the purpose of judicial elections and the role voters are meant to play in the process. This Article describes these challenges and questions, and then proposes my own initial solutions to them, in hopes of beginning a debate about the role of voters in judicial elections. The Article also describes in detail the algorithm that I designed for recommending judicial candidates to voters, and invites suggestions and comments for improving the algorithm for the 2012 election cycle. Part II of the Article provides a brief background of the judicial election process, describing the evolution of judicial elections in this country and the different ways that we elect judges. Part III of the Article describes the challenges inherent in providing useful information to voters in judicial elections. Part IV explains how I addressed these challenges, using a judicial opinion categorization algorithm that had previously only been used by political scientists to study judicial voting records retrospectively. Part V reviews some of the results from the data gathered about judicial voters, and Part VI concludes by discussing the role of judicial elections in our society. Finally, various appendices describe the quiz and the algorithm used on the website.