What’s on Your Chicago Ballot!
Chicago is having a municipal election on February 28th! This is our opportunity to elect officials who will be responsible for making laws and regulations that affect the safety and health of all Chicagoans. Participating in municipal elections can have a deep impact on our communities. Make sure that you are prepared to vote so that your voice is heard on important policy issues like affordable housing, healthcare, public transit, and policing!
Because Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S., the Mayor of Chicago is responsible for a multitude of important laws and initiatives that garner a lot of public visibility. Many of the decisions that the Mayor makes have ripple effects for the state of Illinois and even the whole of the Midwest. For example, past executive orders issued by the Mayor have designated Chicago as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants and for those receiving reproductive care from all over the country. Elected for a four-year term, the Mayor oversees the city’s public works departments including police, emergency medical, and utility services. The Mayor works directly with and is a permanent member of the City Council. The Mayor and the City Council work together to pass budgets, draft and enforce legislation, and oversee city departments and appoint departmental heads. The Mayor is a major driver of policy issues and focus in the city, so picking a mayoral candidate with similar policy priorities to yourself is crucial. This year, there are nine mayoral candidates, and it is important to research which candidate you feel best suits what the city needs.
The City Council serves as the legislative branch of government of the City of Chicago. It creates, passes, and amends local laws, and approves the city’s budget every year. We elect one alderperson for each of the 50 wards in Chicago to a four-year term. Your alderperson will also generally be your first stop whenever you have concerns about your neighborhood. The city ordinances that the City Council creates and passes have an enormous impact on public health. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City Council passed an ordinance preventing employees from disciplinary action for taking time off work to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your alderpersons create meaningful change city-wide and block by block. Be sure to look up who is running in your ward and their positions.
In the upcoming election, you will be voting for a City Clerk and City Treasurer. Both offices are responsible for providing transparency around what Chicago city offices are doing and how they are spending taxpayer money. The City Clerk is responsible for making official legislation, records, laws and reports available to city residents. Some of the documents City Clerks maintain include business licenses, executive orders issued by the mayor, city budgets, and City Council legislative records. The City Treasurer receives all money belonging to the city and is responsible for maintaining records and providing reports on the state of the City’s finances. A main function of both these positions is to maintain and publicize records of the actions of city government so that city residents can be informed and hold elected officials accountable.
For many years now, advocates for called for more community oversight and accountability for the Chicago Police Department due to a history of injustice and violence, especially against Black communities. In response, the City Council created District Councils that you will be able to vote on in this election. Up to three people will be elected to a District Council in each police district for a 4-year term. District Councils members will aim to bring police officers and Chicago residents together to plan, prioritize, and build mutual trust; strengthen the police accountability system; give Chicagoans a meaningful new role in oversight; and explore and advance alternative effective approaches to public safety. This Council is also responsible for nominating members of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability who have oversight over policing budgets and policies regarding law enforcement behavior. This is an opportunity for Chicagoans to have more input and a voice in how their neighborhoods are polices. You can visit this reference guide on whom is running for the District Council in your area.
To prepare for the upcoming election, early voting is currently open and the last day to request a mail-in ballot is February 23. You can visit the Chicago Board of Elections for more information on how to register to vote, early voting and mail-in ballots.
To learn more about how Howard Brown Health contributes to vital advocacy work and has an impact on local, state, and federal policymaking, please visit our Advocacy webpage. To stay up to date with advocacy and policy news like this, sign up for the Center for Education, Research, and Advocacy (ERA)’s newsletter.