South Loop Civics: State Assembly, County Commissioner, and Judges…. Oh My!


It’s not always easy for residents of our neighborhood, especially those who are new neighbors, to navigate the “lay of the land” when it comes to our elected representation in the South Loop.

The information contained in this blog post is intended to provide basic information to voters in the South Loop neighborhood regarding a subset of offices which will be up for vote in the upcoming March 20, 2018 primary election and were included in the Candidate Forums sponsored by the GSLA and South Loop Neighbors.  It is not to be used or interpreted as an endorsement of any specific party or candidate.

Additional information about these and other offices may be found on Ballotpedia.

Illinois State Assembly (House Districts)

The Illinois General Assembly is our state legislature.  It is bicameral and includes the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate. The State Senate has 59 members while the House has 118 members, all elected from single-member districts. A Senate district is formed by combining two adjacent House districts. 

The House consists of 118 representatives elected from individual legislative districts for two-year terms with no limits.  District boundaries are updated every 10 years, and based on the 2010 U.S. census each representative represents approximately 108,734 people.

The South Loop is covered by three different House Assembly Districts (the 6th to the West, 5th in the middle, and the 26th to the East) and two different State Senate Districts.

Parts of the South Loop fall within the 5th, 6th, and 26th House Assembly Districts.
Inset of the South Loop neighborhood, with main District boundary streets highlighted.














Click here for a detailed map of the 5th Assembly District, including street by street descriptions of the boundaries.

Click here for a detailed map of the 6th Assembly District, including street by street descriptions of the boundaries.

Sonya Harper, the current representative in the 6th District, is running unopposed in the primary.

There are currently four candidates running in the March 20 Democratic primary for the 5th District seat, which is being vacated by Juliana Stratton at the end of the term (no Republican candidates filed).  These candidates attended the recent Candidate Forum hosted by GSLA and the South Loop Neighbors on Tuesday, February 27 at Second Presbyterian Church.  The forum was moderated by the League of Women Voters and all candidates had the opportunity to respond to the same set of questions, posed by audience members, in a timed format.  Footage of responses to a subset of the questions, along with the candidates’ closing remarks, are available on the Greater South Loop Association’s Facebook page.

Cook County Commissioner

According to the Cook County Board of Commissioners website:

  • The Cook County Board of Commissioners is the governing board and legislative body of the county. It is comprised of 17 Commissioners, each serving a four-year term and elected from single member districts. Each district represents approximately 300,000 residents.
  • The Board of Commissioners is responsible for the management of the affairs of Cook County.  This includes setting policy and laws for the county regarding property, public health services, public safety, and maintenance of county highways.
  • For each fiscal year, the board must adopt a resolution, termed the “Annual Appropriation Bill” in which the board appropriates funds for the operations of the County.

Members of the Cook County Board of Commissioners also serve on the board of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, which is an independent entity.

Toni Preckwinkle is the current Board President.  Our current Commissioner for the 3rd District is Jerry Butler, who has held the office since 1986 and is retiring when the current term expires.

You can see a more detailed map of District 3 here.

There are numerous candidates for the 3rd District seat, and the WTTW Guide to the candidates has information about each of them who chose to participate in the WTTW Candidate Free Time for your review prior to the Candidate Forum on March 6.

Because the Board of Commissioners in integrally involved in every aspect of your life in Cook county, from taxes (think soda tax and real estate taxes), to funding for many of the services you need every day (think tax assessor, recorder of deeds, and Cook County Sheriff), this often largely unacknowledged race is more important than you realize.

Please join us Tuesday, March 6 at 6:30 pm at Grace Place to learn more about the candidates running to fill this seat at the upcoming Candidate Forum, sponsored by the South Loop Neighbors and Greater South Loop Association.

Chicago Judicial Elections

Judicial elections are among the least understood of all of the offices up for election, so it’s worth providing a bit more detail regarding the process:

The Illinois judicial system has both appointed and elected judges at the trial level. The appointed judges (called associate judges) are generally selected by a panel of the elected judges, and there is virtually no public input (other than through the judicial evaluation process discussed below) in that process. However, many trial judges, called circuit judges, are elected by the voters. This article is a short description of what those judges do, how the judicial evaluation process works, and why you should care.

Circuit judges in Cook County are elected either county-wide, or by judicial sub-circuit in even numbered years. They serve a 6 year terms, and can run for ‘retention’ at the expiration of each 6 year term. The South Loop is largely within the boundaries of the 8th judicial sub-circuit. Within each judicial sub-circuit, there are various judicial seats. In the 2018 election, there are currently 3 vacancies in the 8th.

Several candidates in this race will be available for a meet at Tuesday’s Candidate Forum.

Click here to see a map of the 8th judicial sub-circuit.

The process, like other contested races, consists of a primary on the third Tuesday in March (March 20 this year), with each party’s winner in the primary continuing on to the general election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. If only one party has a candidate in the primary, the winner for that party runs unopposed in the general election. However, if both parties have candidates, that seat is part of the general election. In the 8th this year, there are no Republican candidates, however, there are in other races outside of our boundaries. There are not uncontested races within the 8th. There are likewise no Republican candidates in the county wide judicial elections.  There are 2 uncontested races on the county wide judicial ballot—those candidates will automatically advance to the general election. This means that the primary election is your only chance to vote for judicial candidates in the 2018 election.  For more detail on the judicial election process click on Ballotpedia.

The bar associations, including the Chicago Bar Association, the Cook County Bar Association, and many of the ethnic and local bar associations, engage in a judicial candidate evaluation process, which results in the candidate being found Highly Qualified, Qualified or Not Recommended. The Not Recommended finding is automatically given to any candidate who refuses or fails to participate in the judicial evaluation process, as well as given to those that, for some reason, the evaluators found lack the requisite skillset or demeanor to be a good judge. A link to the Chicago Bar Association judicial evaluation pocket guide is here.

Circuit judges in Cook County have what is called general jurisdiction, and can decide almost any kind of case, although, because Cook County has so many cases, each judge is assigned to a particular division and hears only cases within that category (outside of the Chicago metropolitan area, circuit judges may hear every different kind of case on a regular basis).  Most judges spend some time, right after their election or appointment, hearing traffic cases, and then are re-assigned to a division/courtroom which is vacant. Judges generally are not assigned to hear cases of the type they handled while in practice for a period of time after their election, so that there is lower risk of them having conflicts with their prior cases or firms. Judges attend ‘judge school’ routinely after appointment/election, as well as receiving training from other sitting judges by ‘shadowing’.