In Part 1 of this series, I talked about what an alderman actually is and described some of the trouble I had trying to find unbiased information about my alderman.
In Part 2, I’ll share some actual resources you can use to research your alderman and other candidates on your ballot.
1. The Progressive Voter Guide
To be honest, I started writing Part 1 of this series when I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a Progressive Voter Guide for this election. Now that one has been released, Part 1 could probably be summed up by saying: use this! But I think there’s still some good and interesting info in that piece (and gosh it is just so Chicago-y) so I will keep it.
If you are looking for concrete, well-researched, hilarious, and radically progressive voting recommendations, the easiest place to get all this information is the Chicago Progressive Voter Guide:
If you use this guide, donate to its creators! This is a hugely labor-intensive task — I spent three hours just trying to figure out how to research my ONE ALDERMAN and all I got was a shitton of email from my alderman’s office and a Portillo’s joke I am way too proud of. I cannot begin to imagine how time-consuming work like this is. Here are the PayPal links for the guide’s writers Steph and Ellen.
2. The City Clerk’s Legislative Information Center
Eric Michael Vasquez, CTO for the Chicago City Clerk’s Office, shared a few pieces of advice for navigating the city’s legislation portal if you want to do some of your own nitty-gritty voting record research.
- Try searching for specific words related to issues you are interested in to find related legislation. Searching phrases like “Lincoln Yards” or “soda tax” will likely yield relevant results when you search in the legislation section.
This takes some additional research before you begin your research to figure out What do/should I care about in my ward?
I was able to turn up a few results this way, but it was still pretty hard to make sense of the information on the other side of those Record # links. This data is the definition of policy-wonky.
- Look for roll call votes. These are times where every alderman is asked voted on a particular issue. This is under the “Action Details” link once you’ve clicked on a specific Record #. As far as I can tell, a roll call vote looks like this:
I *think* this might be the vote on the soda tax, but I’m not really sure. Like I said, a lot of policy wonkish stuff going on here. Easy to feel lost.
I’d advise against trying to glean meaningful information from the Legislative Information Center unless you’re a whiz at library sciences and/or you really love Robert’s Rules of Order. Seeing all of this information makes me SO GRATEFUL that all of our City Council meetings are this well-documented, but I wouldn’t mind being given a tutorial to figure out which slices of information are actually meaningful to me as a voter.
Like I mentioned before, I still think Eric and his team are doing a lot to make the most-visited office in Chicago government more human-centered. Part of human-centered design is prioritizing the work that matters most to the humans you’re serving. I’m not sure how many Chicago residents have a deep interest and desire to be able to better understand what’s going on in the Legislative Information Center, so it might not be a priority at the moment.
3. Reliable Endorsements
I asked Aviva Rossman, COO & Co-Founder of BallotReady, what information she thought mattered when it came to researching aldermen. She shared: “Voting history is really tough because it’s hard to know what votes actually matter. I’ve found that what’s easier is finding organizations you trust and going off their endorsements…”
At BallotReady, they use the following sources (among many, many others) to populate information on their ballots:
- The Chicago Tribune
- The Chicago Sun-Times
- Better Government Association Voter Guide (which they helped co-create)
- League of Women Voters Voter Guide (which they helped co-create)
But, like, who did you vote for after all that?
If you’re curious, here’s who I voted for in this election and why:
Bridgett Colling’s Ballot
See who I voted for and why in the 2019 Chicago Election
Thanks for joining me on this civic journey! If you have any questions or comments, I love talking about the intersection of civic life and technology. Please comment or email me at email@example.com.