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Judicial Retention Elections in Cook County

What Determines the Retention Outcomes of Trial Judges?

Project Lead:


Zander Arnao, Vanessa Ma, Dani O'Connell, Russell Xu


In Cook County, judges are elected through partisan primary and general elections and are subject to voters’ scrutiny in retention elections at the end of their terms. This paper examines three different attributes of judges – length of tenure, gender, and quality of bar evaluations – and their relationships with the judges’ affirmative percentage votes received in retention elections. We find statistically significant relationships between each attribute and a judge’s retention vote percentage, but only the effects of bar evaluations are substantial: judges who are typically rated “qualified” earn on average 10.6% more of the vote than those who are typically rated “unqualified”.

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