As the mid-term elections approach, there are a lot of political races to be excited about. In Texas, the most watched race will be that of governor of the state of Texas. Voters will be given many opportunities to see what each individual gubernatorial candidate stands for and believes in. The airways, internet, social media sites, and print media will all receive attention from both camps vying for statewide votes.
But down ballot races — those which probably more directly affect the local citizenry — will not received near the media attention or voter interest as the top of the ticket candidates. This is not unusual, and likely a necessary evil of a complete democracy, but there are tools available to voters who want to educate themselves on the races and not just pull a single lever or vote based on an arbitrary system. For judicial races in Harris County (also encompassing the two courts of appeals that cover 10 counties including Harris County, and the Texas Supreme Court), voters should look to several different endorsement groups, as well as the Houston Bar Association Preference Poll.
There is not one definitive group that a single voter should completely rely on in deciding who he or she should cast their vote for. The top of the endorsement chain is the Houston Chronicle. They endorse both republicans and democrats, males and females, and non-minorities and minorities. There are other groups that also put in a lot of time and effort to interview and make a sincere effort to recommend a candidate. The Association of Women Attorneys is one group that clearly does not favor “women” over men, and they spend many hours to try to get it right.
One other group that does a good job of analyzing the candidates is the Houston Bar Association’s Preference Poll. All members of the HBA are given the opportunity to cast their preference vote on the judges they are personally familiar with. While there can be some potential to skew the results (for example if a large group of like-minded lawyers vote for a particular judge even though those lawyers do not have personal knowledge or experience with the judge), for the most part the HBA poll excels at identify those who would be acceptable in a judicial position (or at times, those who have no business sitting as a judge).
I encourage voters to use these tools as they head to early voting or their polling locations on November 2, 2010.