HP Blog February 23 15
Chicago Government and the Election
Chicago became a city in 1837 when the legislature of Illinois approved its incorporation. Originally, the charter for the city established that the mayor would be elected by popular vote. It also established a Common Council, which later became what we now call the city council.
The city charter established rules for electing the mayor and the city council, which consisted of 35 wards or geographical areas and 70 aldermen. In 1923, the city was reorganized into 50 wards with the same number of aldermen.
It is important to note that Chicago elections are non-partisan. That means that the officials are elected by popular vote regardless of the political party of the candidate. The winner has to receive a 50% majority of the votes plus one. If this is not achieved, there is a runoff election in April.
In addition to the mayor and aldermen, the election also includes voting for the city clerk and city treasurer. Unlike many cities, Chicago does not elect the school board. They are appointed by the mayor. In this current election of 2015, there is a question on the ballot about whether the school board should be elected.
The mayor has the power and the duty to appoint department heads such as the chief of police and the fire chief. The city council approves these appointments and makes decisions about how money is spent for services for the citizens of Chicago.
Questions for discussion
Why is it important to have a government? What might happen if we did not have government?
Why do you think the elections in Chicago are non-partisan? Why is that good or bad for the city?
Do you think that the school board should be elected or appointed? Why?
If you could vote for mayor of Chicago, who would you vote for and why?
For more information:
Our Chicago—People and Places, Turner, Bernard C.; Highlights of Chicago Press
Encyclopedia of Chicago, Ed. Grossman, Keating and Reiff