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Karen Yarbrough

The Cook County Democratic Party will choose a temporary success to Clerk Karen Yarbrough, who died Sunday after an illness.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

While Cook County mourns Clerk Karen Yarbrough, planning starts to pick her successor

As Cook County mourns Clerk Karen Yarbrough, there are plans in the works to pick her successor.

Yarbrough, a Democrat and veteran lawmaker, had more than two years left on her second term. The Cook County Democratic Party will vote to appoint her temporary replacement, though the timeline won’t be announced until after Yarbrough’s funeral out of respect for her family, said Jacob Kaplan, executive director of the Democratic Party.

The question of whether there will be a special election to pick Yarbrough’s permanent successor is still being worked out, Kaplan said. But he said by law there must be a special election in the next general election, which is Nov. 5, if there are more than 28 months left in a person’s term.

Yarbrough died on Sunday surrounded by family after being hospitalized for a serious medical condition, said Sally Daly, a spokesperson for the county clerk’s office. A public memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Sunday at the University of Chicago Rockefeller Memorial Chapel in Hyde Park.

Yarbrough was a fixture in local politics, serving as a state lawmaker and later as the first Black person and first woman to serve as Cook County Clerk. She was the treasurer of the Cook County Democratic Party.

As clerk, Yarbrough oversaw suburban elections. Her office also houses vital records going back more than 100 years, including birth, death and marriage certificates, as well as land deeds.

Kristen Schorsch covers public health and Cook County government for WBEZ.

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