Welcome to the 2024 Primary Election Issue

Early voting locations are open in all fifty wards and at two “supersites” in the Loop, and mail-in ballots are already being received at the Chicago Board of Elections (CBOE) ahead of the March 19 Democratic primary. The president, several South Side congressional and Illinois General Assembly districts, and Cook County offices, including the state’s attorney’s, are on the ballot. So are ballot questions, including the Bring Chicago Home referendum, despite its eligibility being the subject of an ongoing court battle. 

The referendum, which would raise the transfer tax on real estate sales of more than $1 million while lowering it for sales below that amount, was challenged in a lawsuit brought by business groups. Last week, a Cook County judge ruled that the referendum was invalid because it combined multiple questions: raising the tax on some sales while lowering it for others. The CBOE has already filed an appeal, and the question remains on the ballot. Whether votes for it will count will likely be decided on appeal after the primary. 

Cook County judges are also on the ballot (Kathleen Burke, the judge who ruled against Bring Chicago Home, isn’t), and we’ve included a guide to judicial races compiled by reporters at Injustice Watch.

Our cover story is an investigation of poor treatment alleged by workers at a warehouse run by CBOE. In that story, multiple workers described filthy conditions in the warehouse, rampant sexual harassment, and poor treatment by supervisors and said they were instructed to short their own hours. Our reporting has already prompted the Board to mount its own internal investigation.

To round out this issue, we spoke to activists who plan to abstain from voting for President Joe Biden due to his support of Israel in its invasion of Gaza. We also spent time at a liberatory dance party hosted by DJs who aim to create spaces for ebulliently grieving the occupation of Palestine and collectively healing from bearing witness to genocide. And we spoke to first-time voters about the promise and challenges of new enfranchisement. We included a guide on how to vote early, by mail, or in person on Primary Day. Early voting is open in all fifty wards, and the primary is on March 19. Vote—or don’t—but remember that, like everyone we’ve featured in this issue, your voice matters.

Chicago Sues Big Oil 

Last week, Chicago joined eight other states in suing oil and gas companies for allegedly deceiving the public about their role in the climate crisis. Brandon Johnson’s administration filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, and the American Petroleum Institute on February 20. The nearly 200-page complaint details ten separate causes of action as well as related climate damages the city has faced. 

“There is no justice without accountability,” said Mayor Johnson in a press release. “From the unprecedented poor air quality that we experienced last summer to the basement floodings that our residents on the West Side experienced, the consequences of this crisis are severe, as are the costs of surviving them.”

The floods Johsnon referenced impacted residents in the South and West Sides. According to a Block Club story, one in four homes in Austin reported damage from the city’s sewer system floods. The flooding occurred July 1-2, with the West Side receiving almost nine inches of rain. More than 63,000 residents have applied for federal flood assistance.

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