How on earth do you vote for a probate judge?

I’m a responsible, civic-minded kinda guy; I don’t shirk jury duty, pay my taxes on time, and have voted in every election I could since 1986. And I try to vote responsibly - I do some reseach, read what the candidates have to say, look up postions and policies. For the major offices - Prez, Congress, Guv, even state Attorney General - this is not hard, and I usually know who I’m going to vote for before I stick the little plastic card thingie in the voting machine.

But how in Og’s name do I know who’s the right choice for Water Commissioner? Or Probate Court judge? Or county Tax Commissioner? All of these are very important jobs, but even assuming I could find out about the candidates’ records, how competent am I to judge what qualities will make a good Superior Court judge?

I usually end up voting by party, by Creative Loafing’s endorsement - thus substituting someone else"s judgment for my own - or not voting at all. None of which options seems very good to me.

So how do you politics junkies decide on the smaller races?

In my area most of those offices are non-partisan, so you don’t even have the crutch of voting by party.

I find that the local newspaper’s candidate guide helps, if only because it reveals which candidates aren’t completely literate.

Don’t you have to die to be eligible to vote for a probate judge?

I read the voter information pamphlet which includes statements from the candidates. I also try and see if I can find anything online.

Which is sort of the idea-- back in the golden day of the political machines, selling off all the low-level office appointments was what kept them in business, and so the “long ballot” that includes all the piddly little minor offices was a way to prevent that from happening. At least at the time, even having people voting more-or-less at random was seen as preferable to letting the party bosses appoint them.

I was a bit startled recently to see candidates running for the position of coroner! I don’t know if that’s common, but it sure doesn’t seem like it should be elected or partisan.

How on earth do you vote for a judge, period.

It’s often pointless, but occasionally a judge will get a reputation as a buffoon or a draconian prick, and that will be enough to spur an election-day challenge against him. There’s some value in that.

As a general rule, judges in the US aren’t elected, but are often subject to “approval” votes (if a certain percentage of voters disapprove, a replacement will be appointed). There are some who are directly elected, and they tend to run on the same general basis as politicians: “vote for me and I’ll do X.”

Frontline did an episode on the dysfunctional coroner systems in place in some states. Elected coroners have botched investigations, covered up police misconduct, and been generally inept. One coroner held office for a number of years despite being blind. Another was given a body by police, he didn’t have anywhere to store it, so he had it cremated before an autopsy was performed.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/post-mortem/

Around here judges are appointed and after 2 years they have a retention vote. They have stats with the voting material about how many cases they handled and how many complaints they received and if any were deemed valid. Generally I don’t have any opinion on them personally or professionally so I vote strictly by gender bias and racial stereotypes. (kidding!)

On the down-ballot races, occasionally I’ll know something about one of the candidates, and vote on that basis. If I don’t know anything about them, I’ll just vote on party lines, on the idea that some information is better than no information, and I’m more likely to like the guy who identifies with the same party as me. If it’s a non-partisan position and I don’t know anything about the candidate personally, then I’ll just leave that spot on the ballot blank, and let it be decided by those who do know something about the candidate personally.

Don’t forget homophobia. It was used to kick out three judges in Iowa who ruled in favor of gay marriage.

The OP is very lucky if they don’t receive bucketloads of campaign advertising from people running for every possible office, including judges, tax assessors and transportation board members, along with endorsement cards from 67 different Democratic clubs. Then again, maybe they’re not in San Francisco. :wink:

Because I thought it folly to vote for coroner back in the days I voted in Wisconsin, I’d write in Ed Gein.

What do you do in nonpartisan elections? (Which all judicial elections are, AFAIK.)

IMO, only offices that involve actual policymaking discretion should be filled by election – because voting is the mechanism by which citizens can translate their preferences in that regard, or in general political ideology, into public policy. E.g., county sheriffs should never be elected, they should be appointed by and serve at the discretion of their elected county commissions, like city police chiefs.

I don’t know about lower courts, but eight states have openly partisan elections for their supreme courts. Two other states have partisan election processes up to the point where it comes time to print the ballots, then they just don’t print the party names under the candidates’ names. Ohio even furthers the lie by putting “non-partisan judicial ballot” over the partisan judicial races. ETA: I guess the ballot is nonpartisan.

I agree with BrainGlutton. There are far too many public servants being elected who aren’t, or shouldn’t be, representatives. For myself I vote along party lines where I can. We have retention elections for judges. I just vote against keeping any of them on the theory that since they almost never lose it would take a pretty shoddy judge for my vote to help kick them out. I’ve never seen a local campaign to oust a judge for being soft on gays or soft on homosexuality or whatever but if I do I certainly won’t vote against that one.

Usually leave it blank, unless I happen to have heard something about one of the canddidates. But I hate to leave a ballot blank - it feels irresponsible.

Oh, no the OP gets plenty o’ recycling bin fodder for every race from POTUS down to State Representative. Usually not so much from Sec. State, or Labor Commish, or Insurance Commish. But those guys are usually prominent enough to get coverage in the media. Judges, however, seem to go with yard signs rather than mailers. I even saw a guy with a placard on a street corner the other day. Friend or relative of the candidate, I assumed.