While Chicago recorded a single-day record for early voting ahead of Tuesday’s municipal runoff election, officials once again saw a “slow and sleepy” turnout on Election Day.
Voter turnout sat at 33.2% when polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, with 530,382 ballots cast, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. That's compared to 32.1% turnout for the Feb. 28 election, with 507,852 ballots cast by 7 p.m. that day.
“While early voting was definitely strong and swift, it looks like we’re heading back into somewhat of a slow and sleepy Election Day,” Max Bever, director of public information at the Chicago Board of Elections, said Tuesday afternoon.
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On the ballot Tuesday are 14 aldermanic elections and the mayor’s race between Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson.
On Monday, the city set a municipal record with more than 30,000 early votes cast in a single day. By Monday night, the total number of early ballots sat at 292,591 — with 184,723 early votes and 107,868 vote-by-mail ballots.
Those numbers are a marked increase from the 2019 and 2015 municipal runoff elections — though Bever noted more people are registered to vote this year. In 2019, the total number of early ballots cast sat at 164,708. In 2015, there were 161,869 ballots cast early.
As of Tuesday, there were still more than 91,000 vote-by-mail ballots that had not yet been returned. Bever said the board is not expecting to receive all of those back, but it will be accepting all properly postmarked, late-arriving ballots until April 18.
On Tuesday, turnout steadily increased throughout the morning, according to preliminary figures, starting with approximately 7,200 ballots cast in the 6 a.m. hour, and growing to more than 21,000 ballots cast in the 11 a.m. hour. The number dipped in the 2 p.m. hour with 15,548 ballots cast but peaked in the 5 p.m. hour with 28,951 ballots cast. In the final hour of voting, 22,997 ballots were cast.
Bever said turnout across age groups is right in line with the February election.
Voters 55 and older were responsible for 46.8% of total votes cast by 7 p.m., while 18- to 24-year-olds had cast just 20,989 ballots — or 3.96% of the overall total.
“This is somewhat disappointing to see that (these) voters … consistently are sitting out municipal elections,” Bever said of the low turnout among younger voters.
The 19th, 47th, 41st, 45th and 43rd wards were tops in overall turnout by noon Tuesday, according to Bever, who added that early voting and voting by mail in this race has been led by the Northwest and Southwest sides, along with lakefront wards.
Voting issues were few and far between Tuesday. Bever said 14 polling sites opened late — matching the number of late-opening sites in February — but each of those locations opened by 7 a.m.
As of 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, there were no election judge removals.
“That Chicago tradition of having a drunk judge or somebody to remove first thing in the morning doesn’t seem to have held,” Bever said. “And overall, our number of complaints in our help desk is relatively less than it has been in previous years, however, that’s indicative of probably less people showing up to vote for Election Day.”
Bever did say several complaints came in about locked doors on schools; some voters reported trouble finding the correct entrance to access their polling location. In the 15th Ward, Bever said, an investigator was sent to Seward Communications Arts Academy to place additional signage.
“Schools can be big as a polling place,” Bever said. “School security is a little bit tighter than it has been in previous years. I think we know the reason why.”
Any voters who do wish to report any complaints or concerns can call the Board of Elections at 312-269-7870.