Judges cite court drug scandal for disputed campaign tactic

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A move by several southern Illinois judges to avoid a November election that would require more votes than most other candidates need is again drawing attention to judicial elections in a state where the cost of campaigns has skyrocketed.

The three Democratic St. Clair County circuit judges plan to retire later this year to avoid retention elections in which they would run unopposed but still need 60 percent approval.

With their seats vacant, the judges argue they’re free to essentially seek election as first-time candidates. That means they will only need to exceed a 50 percent vote threshold.

The unusual campaign tactic is being challenged in court by Belleville’s Republican city clerk.

It’s also raising questions from critics who think Illinois should appoint its judges to avoid political influence.