Mar 31, 2023 - Politics

The wards with the highest early voter turnout in Chicago's runoff

Data: Chicago Board of Elections; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Chicago Board of Elections; Chart: Axios Visuals

Early voting in Chicago's April 4 runoff is beating early turnout rates before the February election by more than a thousand votes in some wards.

Why it matters: The pattern indicates that many have already made up their minds in this divisive and ideological mayoral race.

  • Some Chicagoans may also be voting early because Election Day coincides with the CPS spring break, a time when many families leave town.

By the numbers: Paul Vallas stronghold wards on the Southwest and Northwest sides (19th and 41st) have shown the highest early turnout by far, just as they did in the February election.

  • The 11th ward comes in distant third, also consistent with February, but this could be boosted by a contentious alder runoff between Nicole Lee and Anthony Ciaravino.
  • A heated 45th ward runoff between Jim Gardiner and Megan Mathias appears to be driving early voter turnout there, which jumped 91% over February.
  • Early turnout in the 47th ward, which includes Lincoln Square, doubled what it was at this time in February election.

What they're saying: "That's not unusual," Chicago Board of Elections spokesperson Max Bever tells Axios, noting similar trends in 2015 and 2019.

  • In runoffs, Bever says, "there's less time to vote and more people have made up their minds quicker on the final two candidates."

The intrigue: Election Day voting is falling out of favor. Only 53% of Chicago voters in November's midterm election, when overall turnout dipped to a new low, cast their ballots on Election Day.

  • About 47% of voters in February's municipal election cast ballots on Election Day, Bever says.
  • And unlike in previous February municipal elections, this year early voting slowed the weekend before Election Day, which is "usually our highest early voting turnout period," Bever says.

What we're watching: Despite the surge in early voting, Bever thinks overall turnout for the runoff may hover in the same 32% range as it did in February.

1 big favor to go: Election officials are urging mail-in voters to pop their ballots in a mailbox or local dropbox as soon as possible, to avoid the kind of prolonged counting we saw in last month's election.


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