CHICAGO — For only the fourth time in the last century, Chicago voters will head to the polls Tuesday to pick a new mayor from among 14 challengers vying to replace retiring Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
With no clear front-runner, polls suggest that no candidate is even close to getting the more than 50 percent of the vote needed to win outright — and avoid an April 2 run off.
But first, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners will have to count all the ballots — while officials keep their fingers crossed that they avert a “nightmare scenario” where it is not clear which candidates finish in the top two spots, as late-arriving mail and provisional ballots trickle in.
“Chicago has never had an election like this,” and may never see one like it again, Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez said Monday.
Approximately 125,600 early voting ballots had been cast as of Monday evening.
However, there are 160,000 more voters registered than there were in 2015, she added.
The biggest question for elections officials center on the 29,100 vote-by-mail ballots that have yet to be returned. Ballots must be postmarked by midnight Tuesday — or voters can bring their mail ballot to their precinct polling place and turn it in for a new ballot, Hernandez said.
The election will be certified March 13.
If you still have questions about the issues or who to cast your ballot for, head over to chi.vote, which is a production of the The Daily Line, Better Government Association, Block Club Chicago, The Triibe and the Chicago Reporter. It has everything you need to learn about the candidates, their positions on the issues and how — and where — to vote.
Here’s what the The Daily Line team will watching as results roll in after the polls close at 7 p.m.
What we know for sure
City Clerk Anna Valencia will win a full term as Chicago City Clerk. The two women who filed to challenge Valencia — Patricia Horton and Betty Arias-Ibarra — were removed from the ballot from elections officials.
However, both sued, forcing elections officials to keep their names on the ballot. Now there is not enough time to reprogram electronic voting machines or reprint ballots, said Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen. Unless the Supreme Court rules in their favor, votes cast for anyone besides Valencia won’t be reported, Allen said.
Five aldermen are unopposed and are assured of another four-year term: Ald. Brian Hopkins (2); Ald. Scott Waguespack (32); Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36); Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42).
In the contested aldermanic races, The Daily Line Chicago team made their best guesses about which races will be decided after a runoff on April 2 — check our spreadsheets for alderman, mayor, clerk and treasurer.
With only two candidates running in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 23rd, 27th, 34th, 35th, 41st, 49th and 50th wards — outcomes are certain, unless candidates call for a recount. Those races are shaded green, while the races where a run off is possible are yellow. The races shaded in pink are those where we think a runoff is possible — while those in red are the races we think a runoff is likely because of a high number of candidates or because it is an open race.
The 20th and 47th wards are most likely to yield runoffs, with nine candidates running in each ward.
The City Council’s two most senior members — Ald. Ed Burke (14) and Ald. Pat O’Connor (40) — are also fighting for their political lives.
Burke is also running for a record 14th term, which would extend his tenure on the City Council to 54 years — while facing a charge of attempted extortion that prompted him to resign as chairman of the powerful Finance Committee. Even if he prevails in this election, much of his power in City Hall and in the Cook County Democratic Party has been hobbled.
O’Connor is facing four challengers, all of whom are urging voters to choose new leadership for the North Side ward.
In the 25th Ward, the race to replace veteran Ald. Danny Solis is also likely to result in a runoff, with five candidates vying to take the seat now held by the disgraced alderman, who wore a wire as part of the investigation into Burke. Federal investigators confronted him with allegations that he received sex acts at massage parlors, the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra and campaign contributions in exchange for ushering deals through City Council.
In the 22nd Ward, Democratic Committeeperson Mike Rodriguez is one of four candidates running to replace Ald. Ricardo Muñoz, who announced his retirement before being charged with domestic violence after an altercation with his wife. He has pleaded not guilty.
Key City Council stories:
In The 49th Ward, It’s Up To Voters To Decide Who Is The True Progressive [Block Club Chicago]
Where their interests lie: Influential sectors in Chicago take sides in mayoral race [Reform for Illinois]
In Chicago’s Mayoral Race, the Establishment Leads the Outsiders [The New Yorker]
Post-‘Rahmbo’ Chicago and the Death of Triangulation [New York Times]
What Rahm Emanuel has done for Chicago [Economist]
Chicago’s Awful Divide [The Atlantic]