There’s more to the story about low youth turnout in Chicago elections

Voters aged 18-24 composed just above 3% of the total vote in both rounds of the election, an admittedly paltry figure. But turnout increased in that group, as well as in those 25-34.

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A young person watches her relative vote at the Loop Supersite, located at 191 N. Clark St. in the Loop, Wednesday, March 29, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A young person watches her relative vote at the Loop Supersite, located at 191 N. Clark St. in the Loop, Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

I was disappointed by Lynn Sweet’s analysis of youth turnout in the runoff election. This is not the first time the Sun-Times has mistakenly relied on an age group’s percentage of the overall vote to paint a picture of turnout. In this case, Sweet cited that voters aged 18-24 composed just above 3% of the total vote in both rounds of the election, an admittedly paltry figure.

However, the newspaper should also provide the more nuanced reality: As cited by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, turnout in that same age group increased by 32% or over 5,000 votes compared with the primary election. This represented the largest percentage increase among any age group and was third in overall vote increase. The next youngest age group, 25-34, had the second largest percentage jump and top overall vote differential, increasing 24% and over 17,000 votes. In contrast, voters 65 and older cast nearly 10,000 fewer votes in the runoff than the primary, a 5%-10% decrease.

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So while the newspaper’s coverage claims that young voters simply don’t want to turn out because the youngest voters still make up just 3% of the vote, the valuable insight and nuance we expect from journalists was left behind.

For instance, the 3% ascribed to youth was only kept that low due to a massive jump in turnout among their peer age groups, not because of reliable turnout among the elderly.

Also, nobody mentions or justifies why the youngest age group composes only seven years (18-24) while all others include 10 years, further diluting the statistic Sweet cites.

And did the decrease in older voters happen because of a presumption that Paul Vallas would win, their preferred primary candidate not making the runoff or bad Election Day weather?

In a race where Brandon Johnson had a nearly 17,000 vote lead over Vallas, perhaps the lesson is not that youth don’t turn out but that the seismic changes in turnout under age 35 and above age 65 made the difference for Mayor-elect Johnson.

Gus Haffner, Lake View

Weathering the storm

The recent tornados in several states, including Illinois, left a severe and damaging effect on residents, their living conditions and local economies. The devastating impact should be a call to architects, building construction professionals, state and federal government to design, build and finance solutions to reduce those damaging effects.

Are there certain design and construction methods that can reduce the effects? If yes, are there design and construction techniques reducing the damaging results of storms exceeding EF-O to EF-4 winds? If so, is there the will and financial efforts to do so?

It will take years to rebuild communities in the aftermath of the tornadoes, and there are no guarantees that severe weather will be kept at bay in the near future. It is time for architects and construction professionals to start brainstorming, while local, state and federal agencies get ready to start financing assistance to support design solutions.

Charles P. Minor, Matteson

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