Skip to contents

Turnout Is ‘Sluggish’ As Voters Are Slow To Polls Tuesday, Suggesting A Smaller Showing Than Last Mayoral Election

Votes are lagging behind the 2019 election, which saw a 35.5 percent city turnout.

An election judge at Darwin Elementary School in Logan Square catches up on reading as she waits for people to cast votes Feb. 28, 2023.
Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

LOGAN SQUARE — Students flowed into the front of Darwin Elementary School at a higher rate than voters to its back door polling place Tuesday morning, a sign of sluggish turnout in the city’s municipal election.

Polling places across the city reported morning lulls and sleepy in-person Election Day turnout Tuesday despite a mayor’s race widely considered to still be a toss-up.

By the time polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, over 507,852 Chicagoans had casted their ballots — for a 32.1 percent citywide turnout of all registered voters, according to the city’s election board.

The first round of the city’s 2019 municipal election saw a 35.5 percent citywide turnout — but votes cast on this Election Day are lower by an average of 8,000 each hour, election board spokesperson Max Bever said.

“Things seem pretty quiet. Unfortunately a little too quiet,” Bever said Tuesday morning. “It’s been pretty sluggish, especially compared to 2019 turnout, which was not great numbers to begin with.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Bethany Dudley brought her dog Harry with her to vote at Senn High School in Edgewater on Municipal Election Day in Chicago, Feb. 28, 2023.

So far older people are “driving the ballots,” Bever said. Almost 55 percent of votes come from people 65 years and older, compared to about 2 percent from 18-24 year olds, according to the elections board.

There are about 100,000 vote-by-mail ballots “still out there,” Bever said. Those votes will take time to trickle in, and at this rate could very well swing elections, Bever said.

Experts previously warned of a “fairly high” chance Chicagoans won’t know many of their elected officials by the end of election night, given crowded races and a record number of mail-in ballots.

Paul Vallas is heading to the mayor’s race runoff, and as of 8:30 p.m. Brandon Johnson appears to be his challenger. Mayor Lori Lightfoot garnered just 16 percent of the vote with nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting.

RELATED: ‘Mayor’s Race Could Be Too Close To Call On Election Night, With Mail-In Votes The Deciding Factor’

With a rise in early voting, the elections board expected turnout north of 40 percent for round one, but Bever said that is now increasingly unlikely.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Election judge Sheila Malloy hangs up a polling place sign in the morning at Edgewater Presbyterian Church in Edgewater on Municipal Election Day in Chicago, Feb. 28, 2023.

Back at Darwin School, 3116 W. Belden Ave., about 60 people casted in-person ballots in the first three hours of the poll opening, said election coordinator Liz Potamites.

Campaigners outside talked among themselves and poll workers inside caught up on reading as they waited for more voters to stop by.

Potamites and other election judges said they weren’t sure what to make of the languid polls.

“We can’t help but wonder and worry if people don’t care as much about the mayoral as the national,” Potamites said. “We’re trying to be optimistic.” 

Neighbor Tyrell Shoemaker lives nearby and casted his vote without any wait.

He walked out with a sticker and a “sense of civic pride.”

“I think our city is at a point of needing to find some healing,” Shoemaker said. “There’s a lot of fractured relationship, so it’s important to be part of the process, and hopefully see progress.”

Despite lackluster turnout, Bever said Election Day has been “pretty smooth and orderly.” There was one complaint against an election judge, and 14 polls across the city dragged shortly behind the 6 a.m. start time, Bever said.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation. 

Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Watch our “On The Block” TV show on The U, CW26 and MeTV.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: