The Observer
News from the League of Women Voters
of Cook County

September 2020

Election Update 

As the November 3 General Election draws closer, a record number of Illinois citizens have applied for a Vote-by-Mail ballot in Cook County. The Voter Service committee of the Cook County League, chaired by Nancy Marcus (Winnetka), has enthusiastically followed this upward trend and initiated several voter service actions.
  • Cook County voter information and election tips have been posted on the Cook County League website. Hat tip to board member Pris Mims (Chicago) for compiling the information and webmaster Peggy Kell (Oak Park) for a compelling, easy-to-navigate design. Check out this useful resource.

  • The Cook County league was invited by ABC7 to provide questions for the three candidates in the Cook County State’s Attorney race for its possible upcoming televised debate.

  • WTTW will soon post the 2020 Video Voters’ Guide for the General Election on its website. With help from the Cook County League, the guide is an online resource to inform Cook County voters about the candidates.

  • The Cook County League communications team has created a schedule for social media posts called “Quick Tips for Voters.” Watch for them on the League's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Featured Observer:
Michele Niccolai

Michele Niccolai (at right) is in her fourth year as a Local League Representative (LLR) to the LWVCC Board representing the LaGrange Area League. She joined the League collecting signatures for the 2014 Illinois Redistricting Amendment, "Yes for Independent Maps.”

A retired Registered Medical Technologist, she spent the last 38 of her 44-year career at Loyola University Medical Center. A self-described nature lover, she has hiked in many National Parks as well as the Cook County Forest Preserve. “Hiking in nature is healing,” she said. “One cannot be in a bad mood when hiking in the woods.”

Of note: Michele has observed board meetings of all four Cook County governments.

Michele’s Tips on Observing

  • With the Covid-19 restrictions, you can observe video or listen to audio at time of Board Meeting. The videos of Cook County Board Commissioners, MWRD and Forest Preserve District Board meetings can be watched at a later time.

  • The hardest part of observing for a newcomer is understanding terminology. This gets easier the more one observes.

  • I realized how little I knew about Cook County government. All the board meetings are a learning experience.

  • To actually be present in the room where the Cook County Commissioners meet and see all the interested parties in the audience giving testimony/expertise is impressive.

Fast facts:
Cook County Health and Hospital System (CCH)
  • CCH is governed by an independent board that is approved by the Cook County Board of Commissioners, which also approves its annual budget.
  • The Affordable Care Act has been key to increasing revenue to CCH, primarily through “County Care.” 
  • Stroger Hospital is renowned for its trauma center.
  • The CCH cares for more than 300,000 patients every year. 
  • The County's health care budget is almost $3 billion dollars.

Get Involved: Join LWVCC’s Observer Corps 
The Cook County League Observer Corps promotes transparency and accountability in government, and believes it plays a vital role in helping improve countywide governments as well as educating voters on decisions that impact their lives. Participants observe the Cook County Board and committees, the Cook County Forest Preserve Board, the Cook County Health Board (CCH), and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board (MWRD). 
LWVCC observers
  • Attend governmental meetings and monitor issues being discussed as well as the process of the discussion; 
  • Write reports after each meeting which are posted at and shared on Facebook and Twitter.
For more information or to volunteer as an Observer, contact Diane Edmundson at or Carolyn Cosentino at
LWVCC Advocacy Actions

On August 26, the Chicago Sun-Times published our letter sent in response to their article on violent crime suspects being released on Electronic Monitoring. We wrote in favor of bail reform to lessen the chance of a low risk defendant remaining in jail solely due to an inability to pay bail and also that electronic monitoring should not be used for those charged with a violent offense or with violent criminal backgrounds. The letter is also posted on our website.

Check out LWVCC’s other recent advocacy actions.
Two South Side Leagues Featured in Daily Southtown

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t deterred members of the Homewood-Flossmoor and Park Forest Area Leagues of Women Voters from registering voters and providing voter education. They were featured in the Chicago Tribune-owned Daily Southtown about the adjustments they made ahead of the November 3 General Election.

Barbara Koger Hayes, LWVHF president, said its members have been on hand at walkathons, food pantries and gun violence protests to register people to vote. They’ve also distributed flyers and made phone calls to get people to pledge to vote. Hayes (above, center) is pictured with members Veronica Amen (from left), Ruby Marsh, Sandra Slayton and Erin Roeper at an event in February celebrating the 100th anniversary of both the ratification of women's right to vote and of the national League of Women Voters founding in Chicago in 1920.

Diane Hodges (left), board president of the League of Women Voters of the Park Forest Area, said that in a normal year, they would be trying to register high school students who are going to be 18 to vote. But since most schools decided on distance learning, the League needed to find another way to register teens.
The new plan calls for connecting with high school debate teams and drama programs to help them develop short videos on issues related to voter registration and voter education, then share them digitally with as many students as possible.

In the Southtown article, Hayes and Hodges noted this is a milestone year for the League because it is the 100th anniversary of the national League’s founding in Chicago and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of women’s right to vote.

They mentioned one more milestone: Kamala Harris became the first Black woman chosen to run for U.S. Vice President on a major party ticket!
Other League Events

Illinois League
LWVIL “Power the Vote” 100th Anniversary Benefit

Celebrate the League’s 100th anniversary at the Illinois League’s virtual fundraiser themed “Power the Vote.” Slip into your suffragette whites and bring your lunch (virtual or otherwise) to support a worthy cause that benefits all League members.
Date: Thursday, September 24, noon to 1 p.m.
Location: Your computer                                
Minimum ticket price: $25 per person

Evanston League
Evanston's Plan for Reparations

The City of Evanston is developing a plan for reparations for the Black community. The Evanston local League and WiseUp will present a program about the process of developing the plan and its initial focus.

Date: Thursday, September 24, 7:00 pm.
Location: Your computer, via Zoom.

Free of charge
2020-2021 Cook County League Board Members 

OFFICERS: President: Cynthia Schilsky, LaGrange; Vice-presidents: Jan Goldberg, LaGrange Area and Karin Hribar Arlington Heights; Secretary: Betty Hayford, Evanston; Treasurer: Nancy Clark, Oak Park/River Forest.

BOARD MEMBERS: Carolyn Cosentino, Homewood/Flossmoor; Laura Davis, Palatine; Diane Edmundson, Park Ridge; Kathi Graffam, LaGrange Area; Nancy Marcus, Winnetka/Northfield/Kenilworth; Priscilla Mims, Chicago; Chris Ruys, Chicago; Mary Anne Benden, Arlington Heights; Michelle Niccolai, LaGrange Area; Ann Bolan, Oak Park-River Forest; Kim Inman, Palatine; Georgia Gebhardt, Wilmette; Dianne Schmidt, Glenview/Glencoe; Lois B. Taft, Evanston.

Editor: Chris Ruys
Webmaster: Peggy Kell
332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 634
Chicago, IL 60604

312/939-5935 x 4