This opinion column was submitted to the RGJ by Kathleen Sigurdson, candidate for Second Judicial District Court of Nevada, Dept. 10.
You might recognize me from my commercials, but if you met me on the street (wearing a mask and staying six feet apart) could you recall what I’m running for this election?
According to some sources, something like 80% of voters cannot identify candidates for judicial office. Twenty-five percent of them simply decide not to cast a vote in judicial contests.
This statistic comes from the nonpartisan site, “Choose Your Judges,” an independent source that works to provide facts about judicial contests across the United States. As someone who has spent more than 22 years in the legal world, arguing on behalf of more than 2,300 clients in six jurisdictions (and their multiple courts), this knowledge is disheartening.
I think it’s safe to say that most of our attention in this election is fixed on the highest office of the land, but the nonpartisan races for our courtrooms are important as well.
In the same way that this country fought against taxation without representation, our communities should be invested in electing the judges who oversee our territories. You, the inviting and hardworking citizens of Washoe County, should have a direct say in who is tasked with enforcing the laws of our republic should you ever need to avail yourselves of this system. Yet, the numbers suggest that many in our community will leave without casting a vote for those judges. In fact, a 2019 report by the Electoral Integrity Project (an independent effort operated from Harvard University) discovered that America votes at rates much lower than any “other long-established democracies and affluent societies” after reviewing information from our elections between July of 2012 and December of 2018.
If there’s any hope I have for this year’s election, it’s that we will see higher numbers of voter turnout at voting precincts. And while we hopefully put voter apathy behind us, let’s also put ballot fatigue behind us as well.
As the election approaches, I encourage you to spend time understanding the names you’ll encounter when you vote and how those candidates might affect our own life. You want to select someone you feel is the best choice for the position should you potentially end up in court.
To many, going to court feels like the scariest possible consequence. Outside of traffic violations, many of us have difficulty imagining circumstances that might lead there. Therefore the topic itself (and the races attached to it) is considered out of sight, out of mind.
We think of court as the place we end up once we’ve done something wrong. For some it feels like a reprimand instead of an option to find resolution. But what I see in my work is that individuals find themselves in court because of something that’s happened to them. Even if you don’t consider yourself a litigious person, you could end up in a courtroom through no fault of your own and, if that day comes, you will want clarity, expedience and impartiality.
You owe it to your future self to have a say. Do you know whether the names on the ballot have the right experience or the right background? Do you know whether these names have the temperament you seek in processes as complex as these? Do you feel they’ll see you as someone trying to navigate your day in court and not as another cog in the legal system?
My time as an attorney has given me comprehensive knowledge of an efficient and fair courtroom. Dealing with so many clients and scenarios means I’ve encountered extensive personalities, honing my ability to exercise patience and maintain decorum no matter the situation. Having worked with the families of Washoe County for 22 years, I can tell you that experience matters.
I hope you’ll consider me when weighing your options for District Court Judge, Department 10. Please vote and as you vote, please do so safely and with a clear understanding of the names on your ballot.