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City, Cook County voter turnout drops, crippling Quinn

Voter turnout in suburban Cook County was down by 6.5 percent and it was down in the City by 7 percent, helping explain a dominant narrative out of Tuesday’s election. 

One of the biggest questions of the night: How did Gov. Pat Quinn drop nearly 100,000 votes Tuesday night in the city and suburban Cook compared to 2010 numbers? 

In 2010, Quinn’s largest concentration of votes was in Cook County, taking back 500,000 more votes than opponent state Sen. Bill Brady. 

County-by-county breakdown of where governor’s race was won, lost
Interactive graphic: Charting Chicago’s voter turnout

On Tuesday, the margin narrowed considerably with Quinn over Republican Bruce Rauner by just 388,880 votes. That’s 111,000 fewer voters in a county Quinn needed to win big to get on any path to victory.

So what changed?

According to the latest numbers provided by Cook County and the City, a total of 129,619 fewer voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election than they did in 2010. 

(Note: the vote totals and percentages may go up a bit as absentee votes are still being counted in suburban Cook and another precinct is out in the City.)

A robocall that created a catastrophic mixup with election judges in the city meant for polls opening later in six precincts. Same-day registration snafus had voters waiting in lines for hours to get registered. When Rauner was on TV declaring victory, people were still waiting in lines in some city precincts hoping to vote.

Cook County Clerk spokeswoman Courtney Greve, however, said the issues in the city didn’t spill over to suburban polling places.

In fact, she called same-day voter registration in suburban Cook County “the biggest success story” of election night.

“We were so thrilled with how election day registration turned out,” she said, with 3,600 suburban Cook voters registering and voting on election day in addition to another 4,400 “grace period” registrations during early voting. 

“We had lines too, but it was in select areas like the Evanston Civic Center,” she said. That’s where the county registered 430 people — many Northwestern University students — for same-day vote.