Commissioner Richard Cowen, the Republican Commissioner on the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners (CBOE) passed away on Sunday while visiting family in California. Commissioner Richard Cowen reportedly battled cancer during 2014 and into this year. Beginning in 2014, he was absent from some CBOE Board meetings and also participated in some meetings from the phone as he worked to overcome his health challenges. Defend the Vote did not verify the exact cause of death, but was informed he died from natural causes.
Commissioner Cowen was the sole Republican on the 3 member Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Defend the Vote worked with Commissioner Cowen on multiple occasions as we uncovered and worked to change illegal and deficient practices of the Board. On many instances Commissioner Cowen was the sole voice on the Board that supported our investigations and work.
Prior to joining the CBOE, Mr. Cowen served on the Illinois State Board of Elections for fifteen years where he was elected chairman and vice-chairman. In addition to his duties on the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners, Richard Cowen was a founding partner with Stahl Cowen Crowley Addis LLC. He received his law degree from Northwestern University.
Defend the Vote extends our regards to Mr. Cowen’s family, friends, clients, and co-workers who will surely miss him. We will also miss him! With a warm and witty personality, we appreciated his astute understanding of the law and his ability to address complex issues related to Chicago elections.
Illinois State Law 10 ILCS 5/Art. 6 lays out how Chicago Board of Elections are appointed in Chicago. As the sole Republican on the Board of Elections, the Republican Party will have the opportunity to make an endorsement for a Commissioner to replace him. He was mid-term in his 3 year appointment cycle. The appointment for all Commissioners on the Chicago Board of Elections are made by the Chief Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, Tim Evans. When a replacement is made mid-term, the Chief Judge has 60 days to fill the position.
Earlier this month, controversial Democrat and Chairman of the CBOE, Langdon Neal announced he was retiring. Consequently, Chief Judge Evans will be selecting two new commissioners. Illinois law requires that at least one commissioner be appointed from each political party. Current Chicago Board of Election Commissioner (and Secretary) Marisel Hernandez is a Democrat. This means that the Chief Judge must appoint one Republican to the CBOE. The appointment to replace Landon Neal can be from either political party or can be an Independent candidate. It is widely anticipated that Ms. Hernandez will be elected as the new Chairman of the Chicago Board.