Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wearing o' th' Green (on the Ballot)

Illinois has passed a law saying that candidates for office who have changed their names within three years have to disclose it on the ballot ("Marilyn Monroe, formerly known as Norma Jean Mortenson"). The target? Lawyers who adopt Irish-sounding names in order to run for judge -- most recently Frederick S. Rhine, who became Patrick S. O'Brien (NOT the Patrick O'Brian who wrote Master and Commander). "Though the census shows the Irish or part-Irish amount to less than 20 percent of the Cook County electorate, candidates with Irish names -- especially female candidates -- tend to sweep judicial elections." Gov OKs bill targeting wannabe Irish judges, Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 31, 2007. There's an exception for people who've changed their names due to marriage, divorce, or adoption.

The law was signed by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich -- probably not someone who shopped around for a name that would be easy to fit onto bumperstickers.

This is an amusing news snippet, but seriously: what does it say about judicial elections? It's not just folks in the Windy City who go into the voting booth, see the list of judicial candidates, and have little else to go on but what name sounds comforting. (Here in Washington, people have speculated that elections were shaped by name more than qualifications. We just haven't had a rash of candidates changing their names to fit voters' preferences -- that I know of.) And maybe we should worry just a little that "Kelly O'Connor" sounds so much more judicial than, say, "Xinh Nguyen," "Ibrahim Mohammed," or "Latonna Robinson."

Thanks: Maureen Howard.

1 comment:

Spartacus O'Neal said...

Maintaining a system of justice within a culture of imbeciles may be more than we can hope for.