If the combined $100 million spent this year by Gov. Pat Quinn and newly-elected challenger Bruce Rauner didn’t tip you off, this year’s midterm elections were a big deal.
And Chicago’s West Side was paying close attention to last week’s midterm elections, more so than the city as a whole.
In the 28th, 29th and 37th wards, turnout was higher this year compared with four years ago.
The number of ballots cast were up from 37,835 in 2010 to 40,030 this year, according to data posted on the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners website.
But the overall voter turnout for Chicago was down from the the last midterm elections in 2010.
Overall, voter turnout in Chicago dropped from 705,869 in 2010 to 642,231 in 2014.
“On the one hand, people were very interested in the governor’s race and feeling very frustrated about politics and wanting to express an opinion one way or another about that,” said David Melton, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
“On the other hand, I think people were feeling very frustrated about politics and very frustrated about whether their vote would have any impact.”
That frustration may have resulted in voter cynicism, Melton said.
A new law that allowed Illinois residents to register to vote on Election Day may have led to higher voter turnout on the West Side, Melton said.
However, the city of Chicago underestimated how popular same-day-registration would be. There were only five sites in Chicago that offered same-day-registration and several suburban sites, including Oak Park – all of which were crowded, and long lines meant voters waited in some cases for hours to cast their ballots.
“The legislature should give very serious consideration to immediately implementing same-day-registration that would be available at your regular polling place,” Melton said, noting that most states already do this.
New technologies, such as online voter registration, available during this year’s elections, could have also contributed to the higher turnout rate on the West Side, said Dick Simpson, a professor in the Department of political science at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Early voting has become more popular with voters, as well. More than 500,000 people cast early early votes in Illinois. In Chicago, more than 150,000 early vote ballots were cast, according to a recent interview by CBS with Cook County Clerk David Orr.
Voter turnout in Austin/West Side
37th – 12,153
28th – 12,153
24th – 10,746
28th – 11,927
24th – 13,053
Courtesy of Chicago Board of Election Commissioners