Voter turnout for mayoral election disappointing to city officials

Kris Anne Bonifacio

In the last wide-open mayoral race for the city of Chicago two decades ago, 68 percent of voters turned out to elect Mayor Richard M. Daley to his first term as mayor. On Tuesday, only 41 percent of registered voters came out, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

The lower turnout was even worse than what Chicago election officials predicted the day before the elections. Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners Chairman Langdon Neal predicted a turnout of slightly more than 50 percent, a percentage already low by Chicago standards.

Neal attributed the lower turnout to voter fatigue and changes to the election system.

In midterm elections three months ago, Illinois voters elected a governor, U.S. senator, U.S. representatives and state officials, including state senators and state representatives. Both Chicago and suburban Cook County had similar voter turnouts for the Nov. 2 elections, at 52 percent, which was comparable to voter turnouts for midterm elections in Chicago for the last 20 years.

Neal said contemporary elections differ from the 1989 elections because city workers no longer encourage people to vote, after a federal investigation led to the dismantling of that system.

“Things have changed completely,” Neal told the Chicago Tribune on Monday.

Voters cast about 580,000 ballots in Tuesday’s election, 73,200 early ballots, and 26,000 absentee ballots. There are 1.4 million registered voters in Chicago.

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