The Presidential debates have focused attention on the Presidential race, but voters need to remember that important local offices are also being contested, and three referenda will be
on the ballot for Evanston residents. 

The Voter Participation Action Coalition of Evanston has been working to register voters and we are also committed to informing voters about the range of votes to prepare for. 

Referenda

First a binding referendum will ask “Shall the Office of the Cook County Recorder of Deeds be eliminated and all duties and responsibilities of the Office of the Cook County Recorder of Deeds be transferred to and assumed by, the Office of the Cook County Clerk by Dec. 7, 2020.” 

Before explaining the proposed change, it should be noted that the non-partisan League of Women Voters of Cook County has carried out a study of the impact and possible outcomes of this measure and strongly recommends a yes vote.

Both these offices are relatively minor within the $4 billion-plus Cook County budget, but the League projects that at least $1 million in savings each year could be achieved through consolidation of these offices. 

The study finds the move could go smoothly because each office is an administrative, rather than policy-making office, and is responsible for maintaining records.  All current functions of the Recorder of Deeds office would be transferred, and no special expertise has been required for either office holder.  Eight of the largest counties in the United States currently combine these functions. 

The change could bring efficiencies to county operations. It could also slightly simplify elections in Cook County, eliminating one of the 10 officials that voters need to become familiar with and elect in primary and general elections.

Second a state-wide binding referendum will also be on the ballot, asking whether the Illinois Constitution should be amended to require that all transportation taxes be spent only on transportation projects. 

Although good government advocates agree that our Illinois transportation infrastructure needs funding, they argue that this should not be determined in the Constitution, but by legislators in public debate. They recommend a no vote.

The final referendum is advisory, asking whether Illinois should enact an Earned Sick Time for Employees Act to allow employees to earn up to 40 hours of sick time a year to take care of personal or family health matters. Voting yes would convey support to legislators when they address this question.

Cook County Offices

Three of the elected Cook County
offices are up for election this November.  Most prominent is the office of State’s Attorney. 

This vital office prosecutes crimes committed in Cook County, which is the largest consolidated court district in the United States. It also serves as legal counsel for Cook County government agencies and Cook County public officials.  

Concern about equity in the criminal justice system and police conduct has led to public protests and wide discussion nationally and locally. This has brought high visibility to the contest  between Kim Foxx (D) and Christopher Pfannkuche (R).

Also in Cook County, the Clerk of the Circuit Court will be chosen. The position keeps the records of the Court, including court decisions, fines and bail bonds, serving the Court, the legal professions, and the general public. 

The choice here is between the incumbent Dorothy Brown (D) and her challenger, Diane Shapiro (R). The current Recorder of Deeds, Karen Yarbrough, records, stores and provides information on land transactions and ownership, and has no opponent. Although most voters have limited awareness of how these offices function, the character and experience of candidates should be considered in casting a vote.

Another important  and little known body in Cook County is the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board, a nine- member Board that oversees water treatment and management of the sanitary and storm water sewers throughout the County. 

For over a decade the Board has been overseeing  a multi-year project to build tunnels and storage reservoirs to reduce flooding. The Board raises taxes and manages a large budget. This year three positions are open and Democrats and members of the Green Party are vying
for the seats. 

Judges

Most voters are daunted when confronted with voting for judges.  None of us can be familiar with all the candidates, but different Bar Associations in the Chicago area provide recommendations which can be found online and are referenced in newspapers. 

State and Congressional

Information about other offices is easier to find: the crucial Illinois Senate race between incumbent Mark Kirk(R) and Tammy Duckworth (D); the race for Representative from the 9th Congressional District  between incumbent Jan Schakowsky (D) and newcomer Joan Lasonde (R); Illinois Comptroller; and the Representative in the 18th Illinois House District where Robyn Gabel (D) is being challenged by Jessica Tucker (R).  

 Candidates will be appearing in forums and debates, live and on television, and have created web sites for more extensive information about their experience and programs. 

Video statements from Cook County candidates jointly produced by LWVCook County and WTTW are available at www.lwvcookcounty.org and  http:/wttw.com/votersguide.

Another non-partisan source of information is BallotReady.org.

Find out as much as you can about them all, and then be sure to vote, either during early voting this month or on Election Day, Nov. 8.

Ms. Hayford is a member of the Voter Participation Action Coalition.