Mar 21, 2024 - News

Illinois sees big uptick in nonpartisan ballots this primary

Illustration of hands holding ballots and trying to vote.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of Illinois voters cast nonpartisan ballots in Tuesday's primary, compared with just six in 2022.

Why it matters: The rise in nonpartisan ballots signals potential voter disinterest in either party or the lack of competition in particular races.

The big picture: It comes as groups protesting President Biden's refusal to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza instructed voters to write-in "Gaza" for the presidential ticket, or to leave it blank. It's unclear whether some sought out nonpartisan ballots for similar discontent.

Zoom in: A nonpartisan ballot includes only citywide and precinct-level referenda, like Bring Chicago Home. State law requires voters to declare a party in order to receive a ballot with all party candidates, Max Bever from the Chicago Board of Elections tells Axios.

  • "This is also why you can't vote multiple party ballots in a primary election."

By the numbers: In statewide and judicial races this primary, 88% had either one opponent or none, according to analysis by Capitol News Illinois.

  • Nearly 6,000 nonpartisan ballots were cast in this primary. In 2018, more than 4,400 nonpartisan ballots were submitted in Illinois, a jump from 77 in 2016.

What they're saying: Voter Elena Panyard of the 43rd Ward tells Axios she usually votes Democrat but in this election cast a nonpartisan ballot for the first time.

  • "While the presidential election was the main driver for my hesitation to vote Democrat this time around, I'm overall just upset with the entire party," Panyard says.
  • "Each year we are pressured to vote for subpar candidates, because we are meant to fear the other side — but we deserve more, and until that happens, I'm out."
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