City Cast

What Measures Could Chicagoans Vote on Next?

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on November 15   |   Updated on November 29
A voter at the Chicago Board of Elections' Loop Super Site in 2020

A voter at the Chicago Board of Elections' Loop Super Site in 2020. (Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP / Getty)

Tensions have erupted in City Council over the last couple weeks as alders have debated measures to add to the March 19 ballot. Today, we’re looking into what Chicagoans could vote on this spring.

A Nonbinding vs. Binding Referendum

A referendum is when Chicagoans directly vote on a proposal, law, or political issue as opposed to when a representative votes on our behalf. But not all referenda are created equal:

  • A binding referendum is when that vote results in action. The last time Chicago voters passed a binding referendum was to create the city’s Board of Election Commissioners in 1885, WTTW reported.
  • A nonbinding referendum is more like taking the temperature on where voters stand on an issue. In the winter, South Siders overwhelmingly backed affordable housing protections in South Shore and Woodlawn.

There Can Only Be Three on the Ballot

If more are submitted, only the first three valid questions may be certified, WBEZ reported.

What Will Chicagoans Definitely Vote On?

Bring Chicago Home is a tax on property sales over $1 million to fight homelessness that will be on the ballot as a binding referendum, alders decided last week.

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What is Still Up in the Air?

The city’s sanctuary status, the crux of recent City Council drama, could be up for a nonbinding vote as migrants’ arrival to the city has divided Chicagoans. The Rules Committee is set to meet Thursday after being suspended last week.

Other nonbinding referenda could address whether the city should establish a flood mitigation plan and expand mental health clinics.

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