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Aldermanic elections in Chicago

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The City of Chicago has held elections to its City Council since its incorporation in 1837. Elections were held annually from 1837 through 1921, biennially from 1923 through 1933, and quadrennially starting in 1935. From 1851 through 1922 the Council was staggered and half of it was chosen at each election, but before 1851 and since 1923 the entire Council has been elected at each election.

Members of the Council are known as "aldermen"—a term that is gender-neutral, although "alderwoman" and "alderperson" are occasionally encountered—and are elected from districts known as "wards". Since 1923 there have been fifty wards, each entitled to one alderman. Prior to that time the number of wards varied but they were almost always entitled to two aldermen each. The Council was known as the "Common Council" prior to 1875.


When Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1833, it was governed by a Board of Trustees that were elected at large and who elected a President from among themselves. Chicago's incorporation as a city in 1837 abandoned such a model in favor of a Common Council elected from wards and a separate mayor elected at large. However, the mayor would serve as the presiding officer of the Common Council. Each ward was nominally entitled to two aldermen each; however, prior to 1839 the 3rd and 5th wards were only entitled to one alderman each. Aldermanic terms were one year each, and both aldermen were elected simultaneously in a ward. After 1850 aldermanic terms were extended to two years but the council was then staggered so that elections continued to be held annually and only one alderman was elected from a ward each election.[1]

The City Charter was abolished in favor of the Cities and Villages Act of 1872, which renamed the council the "City Council".

In 1920 elections were made officially nonpartisan. In 1923 the number of aldermen per ward was decreased to one and the number of wards was increased to fifty, while the entire council was once again elected at each election. Starting in 1935 the term for aldermen was extended to four years, and aldermanic elections since that time have coincided with the mayoral election.

In 1837 there were six wards, before that number was increased to nine in 1847, ten in 1853, sixteen in 1863, twenty in 1869, down to eighteen in 1876, to twenty-four in 1887 and thirty-four in 1890, to thirty-five in 1900, before being increased to fifty in 1923.[1]

Current election laws

There are no term limits for aldermen.


  1. ^ a b "Centennial List of Mayors, City Clerks, City Attorneys, City Treasurers, and Aldermen, elected by the people of the city of Chicago, from the incorporation of the city on March 4, 1837, to March 4, 1937, arranged in alphabetical order, showing the years during which each official held office". Chicago Historical Society. Archived from the original on September 4, 2018. Retrieved September 15, 2018.
This page was last edited on 22 September 2019, at 02:47
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