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Voting on pace to mirror February’s low turnout

Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Chair Marisel Hernandez talks to reporters earlier this year at an early-voting site in the Loop. | Sun-Times file photo

Trends indicate voter turnout for Tuesday’s runoff election is on pace to mirror the nearly record-low turnout of 35 percent in the February first round that whittled 14 mayoral candidates to two: Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle.

That was the word Monday from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

“We hope we’re wrong,” board spokesman Jim Allen said Monday. “We hope everyone is just saving their vote for Election Day.”

Allen said it was too early to tell if a theory posed by poll watchers to explain February’s low turnout will be borne out or proved bogus.

That theory: Many voters sat out the first round because there were too many candidates to choose from, but would show up in April when they were down to two options.

In 2015, the city’s first-ever runoff featured Jesus “Chuy” Garcia against Rahm Emanuel; then, 41 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Voter data contrasting that runoff with this one presents “mixed signals,” Allen said during a morning news conference at an early voting location in the Loop.

Nearly 60,000 Chicagoans applied to vote by mail this time around, compared to 42,000 in the 2015 runoff.

But early voting, which totaled 142,000 in 2015, was only about 100,000 Monday morning — with several hours still to go before Election Day.

“Tuesday, April 2, is not just Election Day, it is the voters day,” said Marisel Hernandez, chair of the board of election commissioners. “Now is the time to weigh in.”