CHICAGO (CBS) — A wide-open election and 14 candidates on the ballot for mayor haven’t been enough to get most voters out to the polls in Chicago this Election Day, and officials expect turnout could set a record low on Tuesday.
As of 4:30 p.m, 427,000 votes had been cast citywide, about half of them through early voting over the past two weeks, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. There are just over 1.5 million registered voters in Chicago.
Barring a late surge in voting, that puts Chicago on pace for a turnout of about 30 percent to 32 percent, the worst municipal election turnout since 2007, when the city set a record low of 33 percent turnout.
“We may be in the neighborhood,” said Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board Of Election Commissioners.
Compared with the 2018 mid-term, when millennial voting was strong, more younger voters skipped this election. As of 4:15 p.m. about 52,000 votes were cast by voters aged 25-34, compared with 189,000 in the mid-term. For voters aged 35-44, the numbers were about 63,000/163,000. Voters over age 65, a total of 135,000 votes had been cast for this election, compared with 190,000 in 2018.
While the low turnout in 2007 was somewhat understandable, as Mayor Richard M. Daley was running for his sixth term in office, and facing two underwhelming challengers, this year is a wide open race; there is no incumbent on the ballot for only the fourth time in the last century in Chicago.
With 14 candidates on the ballot, Allen said many voters might be staying home and waiting to find out which two candidates will end up in a runoff election that is all but guaranteed in April. However, he noted if those people don’t vote, their preferred candidate might not make the runoff.
“Some people have said they’ve got it narrowed down to two or three candidates, and can’t make up their mind,” Allen said. “At some point, you’ve got to pick and vote.”
By comparison, the last time the city had a wide open race for mayor, in 2011, turnout was about 42 percent in the February election, with six candidates on the ballot.
If no candidate gets a majority of the vote on Tuesday, the two candidates with the most votes will face off in a runoff election on April 2.
Unlike the midterm elections in November, the greatest turnout for this year’s municipal elections has been among voters age 55 and older. According to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, more than 58,000 people between the ages of 55 and 64 had voted as of early Tuesday afternoon; nearly 55,000 between 65 and 74 had voted; and more than 37,000 of those 75 and older had cast ballots.
Turnout was sharply lower among younger voters; only about 45,000 voters between 45 and 54 had voted; more than 41,000 between 35 and 44 had cast ballots, more than 34,000 between 25 and 34 voted, and about 7,300 between 18 and 24 had voted.
Even with the exceptionally low turnout on Tuesday, there have been a handful of problems at city polling places.
Two election judges had been removed from their posts as of Tuesday afternoon.
One female election judge was removed from a polling place in the 34th Ward for being verbally abusive toward other judges.
Another woman election judge was removed from a polling place in the 26th Ward for encouraging people to vote for a specific candidate. Officials said she later returned to the polling place in a threatening fashion.
Chicago election officials will ask a Cook County judge to order a polling place in the 45th Ward to stay open an hour late, after a problem with voting equipment prevented the site from opening until 8 a.m. Twelve to 20 voters were turned away during that time.