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Voter turnout terrible — but still not as bad as 2012

The most recently available totals in Chicago showed 477,444 votes cast in Tuesday’s election, a turnout of 31.3%. That’s lower than the 2016 primary, but higher than the scant 24.5% turnout in 2012.

Hand sanitizer and stickers are set up at the Lincoln Lodge Polling Station in Chicago’s 1st Ward Tuesday.
Hand sanitizer and stickers are set up at the Lincoln Lodge Polling Station in Chicago’s 1st Ward Tuesday.
Sun-Times file

Yes, fears over the coronavirus decreased in-person voting throughout Chicago and the suburbs on Tuesday. But record numbers of early voters helped the region avoid even lower turnouts seen during the presidential primary of 2012.

The most recently available totals in Chicago showed 477,444 votes cast in Tuesday’s election, a turnout of 31.3%. That’s lower than the 2016 primary, but higher than the scant 24.5% turnout in 2012.

The 2012 primary marked the lowest voter turnout in Chicago in 70 years. Voters had little reason to come to the polls — incumbent President Barack Obama ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, and there were few hotly contested races — and warm weather lured people outside rather than into voting booths.

Four years ago, it was a different story, with nearly 55% of voters casting ballots. In the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders. On the Republican side, Donald Trump bested Ted Cruz.

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While the coronavirus kept people out of polling places Tuesday, some 250,000 people already had either voted early or voted by mail in Chicago. Thousands more mail-in ballots were expected to arrive in the coming days.

In suburban Cook County, there were up to 30,000 mail-in ballots still to be counted of the record 60,000 that were requested, Cook County Clerk’s office spokesman Jim Scalzitti said.

Voter turnout in suburban Cook stood at 28%, which, like in Chicago and most collar counties, was lower than the primary of 2016 but higher than in 2012. Lake County, reported 22.9% turnout Tuesday, lower than the 23.6% in 2012.

Contributing: Mark Brown, Tina Sfondeles