PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Mail-in ballots for Allegheny County voters are expected to go out soon in the mail.

This primary ballot has lots of county, school, and municipal candidates. One race has attracted over three dozen candidates.

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When Allegheny County voters get their ballot, most will see 39 candidates running for nine openings on the Court of Common Pleas. Many names will be unfamiliar.

“These are some of the most important votes you can make,” Elizabeth Hughes, president of the Allegheny County Bar Association, told political editor Jon Delano on Thursday.

Judges can affect whether you get custody of your children in a family case, get fair treatment in a civil case, or whether you are jailed or go free in a criminal case.

“These are real-life issues that judges decide every day, and people don’t realize how important it is until you have a need to be in front of these and you are looking for fairness and justice,” says Hughes.

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Duquesne University law professor Joe Mistick says when voters don’t know the candidates, they often use old-fashioned ways to may their choices.

“People might vote based upon ethnicity. They could vote based upon the municipality where the candidate is from. They want somebody local rather than from the other end of the county. Sometimes gender is how people vote,” says Mistick.

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Shared ethnic backgrounds, hometowns and gender are some ways to vote, and then there’s ballot position, leading some to, says Mistick, “cast votes for the first nine you find on the ballot.”

That’s not always smart if it ignores background, skills and issues.

This year, many organizations, political parties, labor unions and ideological groups have endorsed candidates for judge.

“With this many candidates, those endorsements from those various groups could make a very big difference this year,” notes Mistick.

Hughes says that the ACBA’s Judiciary Committee interviewed the judicial candidates who applied, rated 11 as “Highly Recommended,” and posted online all the candidates’ resumes and answers to questions.

Her advice to voters?

“Be thoughtful and do your research. Do your homework. This is super important,” Hughe said.

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Here is the link to the Bar Association’s ratings.