Civic engagement groups are ramping up efforts to get voters to the polls for the Illinois primaries on June 28.
The effort comes as 73 Chicago precincts remain without a designated polling place due to pandemic-related closures. Voters affected by the closures will have to vote by mail, vote early, or go to a site open to their entire ward on Election Day. Civic advocacy groups worry the closures will impact voting access.
“It’s another barrier that prevents people from getting to the polls. We know there are a lot of challenges that people already face when it comes to getting to the polls to vote in the first place, and now we see that there would be challenges ... to knowing where to actually go to vote, and that just seems to just be another barrier to prevent people from really turning out to vote in the first place,” said Chaundra Van Dyk, the Chicago project manager at CHANGE Illinois.
The primaries are typically held in March, but this year they’re in June to accommodate delayed 2020 census data.
“I think that there are a lot of great things that can happen with the election happening in the summertime. Usually when we’re voting in Chicago, it’s freezing cold, so hopefully with the sun being out, people feel more energized and want to turn out to the polls,” said Stevie Valles, executive director of Chicago Votes, a nonprofit working to get young people engaged in civics.
More: Find candidate videos, questionnaires and bio information in WTTW’s 2022 Primary Election Voter Guide.
Voters may also see themselves in new Congressional districts this year, as new maps for the state were signed into law in November last year.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work to really focus on educating communities across the state about the importance of being engaged, sharing information online where people can locate their new districts and see where they’re located and sharing information about voter registration to ensure people know they can do early voter registration, just really trying to educate communities about all of these different resources and information that they need to ensure that they get to the polling location, know where they’re polling, know their new districts,” said Van Dyk.
Chicago Votes has been doing similar work to engage young voters. The organization has created and distributed a voter guide to easily break down the offices up for election.
“We try to make voting fun, we’re hosting parties at the polls in North Lawndale and Englewood and Woodlawn over the course of this next week, so they’ll be gardening, barbecues, music, mural painting a lot of fun ways to bring people out to where they can actually cast their ballots,” said Valles. “So we just try to meet everybody where they are and provide like fun and innovative ways for people to not only feel knowledgeable enough to participate, but to feel like participating is actually fun.”
Voter turnout during midterm elections tends to be lower than presidential elections. According to Fair Vote, 67% of eligible voters in Illinois showed up for the 2020 presidential race compared with 52% in the 2018 midterms.
“I think most people in America, when you talk about voting, the first thing that comes to their mind is voting for president, and so I think part of the reason why there’s such a high turnout in presidential elections is because that’s the biggest election that you get to participate in as an American voter,” said Valles. “I feel like it’s very important for us as advocates and organizers to do all that we can to infuse our society with the culture of civic education and participation, so that people understand that these local elections are all the more impactful. These midterm elections matter a whole lot, and what you do post elections matters as well.”