Chicago voters dismayed by low turnout in mayor’s race: ‘It’s a shame’

After a frustratingly low voting numbers in February, there was hope that more people would cast a ballot this time around. But young voters ages 18-24 did improve their numbers slightly from the February election.

SHARE Chicago voters dismayed by low turnout in mayor’s race: ‘It’s a shame’
Two people walk over with ballots in hand to the ballot box to cast their ballots on the final day of early voting for the Chicago mayoral runoff election at the downtown voting super site, Monday, April 3, 2023.

Two people walk over with ballots in hand to the ballot box to cast their ballots on the final day of early voting for the Chicago mayoral runoff election at the downtown voting super site, Monday, April 3, 2023.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time

Lincoln Park resident Susan Silver was torn over whether to vote for Chicago Teachers Union-backed Brandon Johnson or Fraternal Order of Police-endorsed Paul Vallas.

“I hate the CTU and I hate the FOP,” said Silver, outside Lincoln Park High School in the 43rd Ward. “So, I really had to hold my nose and vote.”

Still, Silver said it was her obligation to vote in the mayoral race.

On Tuesday, Silver was one of hundreds of thousands who braved the threat of severe weather to make their voices heard in Chicago’s municipal elections.

After polls closed at 7 p.m., turnout was about 33% with 530,382 ballots cast out of 1,595,066 registered voters in Chicago, according to the Board of Elections. Turnout was the highest among voters ages 55-64 and 64-74. The two age groups accounted for 35% of ballots cast.

Youth voter turnout was slightly higher than in February, but still lagged behind other age groups. Young adults ages 18-24 represented about 3.9% of the vote, compared to 3% in the first round.

But voters ages 18 to 34 accounted for 20% of the vote in this round, compared to 17% in February.

Total turnout in the February election was 36%, which was slightly higher than the 2019 elections but lower than the 41% turnout in the 2015 runoff.

Silver said she was disappointed over voter turnout for both rounds of this year’s elections.

“It’s my civic duty to vote,” Silver said. “It’s a really important thing to do. And people do not appreciate what an amazing thing it is.”

After low voting numbers in February, there was hope that more people would cast a ballot Tuesday. But figures suggest both rounds will wind up with similarly lackluster turnout numbers.

“It’s looking like a slow and sleepy Election Day,” Max Bever, director of public information for the Chicago Board of Elections, said Tuesday afternoon.

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Vincent Feldman, an 18-year-old senior at Notre Dame College Prep, voted for the first time in February. He came out Tuesday to vote for the second time and volunteer for 45th Ward Ald. Jim Gardiner.

Kaitlin Washburn/Chicago Sun-Times

Nearly 300,000 early ballots had already been cast by Monday night, as voters looked to make their voices count before a storm system moved through the area. Of those, 184,723 were submitted at early voting sites, with Monday breaking a record for early voting in a single day with about 30,000 people voting, and 107,868 were sent in by mail.

There were about 92,000 vote mail-in ballots still outstanding, and not all will return back on time or be properly postmarked. All outstanding mail ballots will not be counted or reflected in the Election Night results, Bever said. The board will receive these ballots in the coming days and they will be counted on a rolling basis through April 18.

Sheri Dysoin, a lifelong Englewood resident, offered some theories for the low turnout numbers this election cycle. She said people have become disillusioned by politics because of the city’s history of disinvestment in neighborhoods like hers.

“People feel that no matter what, their opinion is not gonna count cause they live in Englewood,” Dysoin said. “I think people just gave up on politics because they figure they’re not gonna invest whatever money they’ve got in this neighborhood. ... We’re gonna get the worst of things anyways.”

Dysoin also mentioned the lack of car ownership in the neighborhood being a barrier to getting to the polls.

Alfredo Alvarez, a 20-year Belmont Cragin resident, blamed a historical distrust in politicians for Chicago’s low voter turnout.

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Laura Cope brought her 14-year-old son Malik Gist with her to vote at Simeon Career Academy on Tuesday.

Violet Miller/Sun-Times

“It’s probably the long history of corruption in the city and the state,” said Alvarez, outside his polling place in the 36th Ward on the Northwest Side. “Whoever you’re going to vote for is going to play the same game Illinois has been playing for decades.”

While some have said there isn’t enough advertising around Election Day, Alvarez disagrees. The city does a “good job” of getting the word out, he said.

“We get all these notifications on where to vote, there’s all these resources and early voting, so there’s really no excuse not to vote,” Alvarez said.

Vincent Feldman, an 18-year-old senior at Notre Dame College Prep, was among the young voters who cast a ballot in the election. He voted for the first time in February and came out again for Tuesday’s runoff.

“It’s very important to come out and vote,” Feldman said. “I’m super passionate about politics.”

Feldman, who’s headed to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall to study political science and business, said he’s disappointed about the low voter turnout among young people.

“It’s a shame. Young people should be excited to be able to vote,” he said. “In some countries, people don’t have the right to vote like we have.”

On the South Side, Laura Cope, a Chatham resident for more than 20 years, didn’t know who was running in the 21st Ward. She said she only knew candidates who were on signs her friends had put up.

She still wanted to stress the importance of voting to her 14-year-old son Malik Gist.

“As soon as he [becomes an adult], he’ll be voting too,” Cope said. “Every vote counts.”

Despite her encouraging her son to vote, Cope said she was worried about the sincerity of politicians running for office in this cycle.

“I hope they’re not just doing this talking to get into the mayor’s office,” Cope said. “I am hoping whoever gets in there does something better.”

2023 Chicago election results by ward precinct

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