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Why YOU need to vote in judicial elections

By Lorelei Pierce

You probably enter the voting booth knowing who you will support for Governor, Attorney General, and candidates in a variety of Texas state races. But have you ever put much thought into your county judicial options?

Lengthy ballots with lots of candidates can make elections intimidating, but understanding each race is worthwhile. SupportTheCourtTX.com is here to help simplify the process for you.

Unfortunately, many voters select judicial candidates based solely on information they find on the ballot. Judicial Races have an important impact on the community and affect you, personally, more than you realize. For example, the actions Bexar County judges directly affect your local community – case backlogs; search warrants; sex offenders; neighborhood safety; road safety – DWIs; probate; decisions, damages, and sentencing; and numerous treatment programs are all directly affected by elected judges.

Even if you never enter a courtroom, their decisions will impact on your life. “County Court judges oversee people on supervision for cases such as DWIs and assaults. Judges may order DWI or anger management classes to change behavior, which in turn make the community safer for all,” says Julie Bray Patterson, candidate for Judge County Court at Law no. 5.

U.S. citizens notoriously ignore the judicial branch. According to at 2012 research study by FindLaw, two out of three Americans cannot name any Supreme Court Justices. The three branches of government exist for a reason, all are important, and all deserve your equal attention.

According to the Texas Judicial Brand website: There are two basic types of courts in the Texas judicial system – the trial courts and the appellate courts. “In Texas trial courts, witnesses are heard, testimony is received, exhibits are offered into evidence, and a verdict is rendered. Appellate courts hear appeals in cases which have been previously tried in the trial courts. No new evidence is presented and no witnesses are heard on the appeal of a case.” For a brief overview of the Texas court system click here. 

Because Americans are particularly disengaged with judicial campaigns, judicial positions for the Appellate Court, District Courts and County Courts of Law are often overlooked by voters. Judges running in state, district, and county elections have a substantial impact on the future and safety of our local communities. Courts in Bexar County oversee programs regarding veterans treatment, child support, prostitution, drug treatment, animal abuse, legal guardianships, mental health, and teen girls in foster care, to name a few. And in turn, these courts have a direct impact on our local communities and our quality of life. Click here to learn more about the courts’ impact on Bexar County residents. 

As Texans, we have the great privilege of having a say in judicial elections, and one that few Americans have. Texas is one of only eight states that use partisan elections to elect their supreme court justices, and one of only 20 states who elect trial court judges at any level.

In many states, judges are appointed by the governor. In a state as large as Texas, 469 District Judges would be appointed by its governors, not to mention all the other courts. As Texans, it is our responsibility to elect honorable, knowledgeable, and impartial judges. Being able to vote for these positions provides Texas’ citizens crucial local empowerment. Todd McCray, candidate for 226th Judicial District recommends, “…selecting judges for Bexar County courts based upon criteria such as demonstrated, and tested, special competence in the field of law applied by the court.”

Some critics argue judicial elections are flawed because voters are too uninformed to select their judges. These critics would rather have governors decide who fills these important positions. However, this argument ignores the political influence and backroom deals that can accompany judicial appointments.

The judiciary is a co-equal branch of government. The November election will select judges impacting local Bexar County communities, as well as the State of Texas, both now and for years to come. Judge Bob Behrens of County Court at Law no. 15 says, “It is important for voters to do their homework and to cast their votes for judges with the professional experience, legal expertise, and integrity required to apply the law in a fair and impartial manner.” Don’t miss your opportunity to decide who those judges will be.

As a registered voter in Bexar County, you can and should cast an informed vote in the upcoming November election. Make the most of your vote. Go to SupportTheCourtTX.com and learn more about the courts, Julie Bray PattersonTodd McCray, Judge Bob Behrens, the Republican candidates, and be an informed judicial voter.