LOGAN SQUARE — Dark clouds loomed over the city Tuesday morning as voters got to the polls early in a mayor’s race still widely considered to be a toss-up.
Poll workers in Humboldt Park and Logan Square said there had been a steady flow of voters throughout the morning, and minimal wait times. Severe thunderstorms, hail and damaging winds were expected Tuesday, but most of the city had been spared from severe weather as of 3 p.m.
Turnout in Chicago’s municipal elections is typically low — with just 36 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot in the Feb. 28 election. But early voting numbers outpaced the 2019 and 2015 elections — and 30,000 people cast ballots on Monday alone, said Max Bever, Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesperson.
By 5 p.m. Tuesday overall citywide turnout sat at 29.8 percent with almost 476,358 ballots cast — about 2 percent higher than the same time on Feb. 28, Bever said.
Still, turnout is expected to be “slightly sleepy and slow,” Bever said. The board expects an “overall bump,” but only of about 1 or 2 percent.
“We seem to be hitting the repeat button to Feb. 28 in so many ways,” Bever said. “So far we’re seeing just a couple thousand more votes by each hour.”
Voter demographics are so far “very similar” to the Feb. 28 election, with older Chicagoans casting a majority of ballots, Bever said.
But things began to even out as the afternoon progressed, he said. While voters between the ages of 18-24 were rare, there was a turnout spike among 35 to 44 year olds.
“It’s a moving target, but it looks like the spike with the oldest votes could be smaller,” Bever said. “Anything can make a big difference in a low-turnout election.”
Experts previously said Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson has the most to gain by courting younger voters. Former CPS CEO Paul Vallas saw early support from older voters.
About 107,00 vote-by-mail ballots have already been returned and will be tallied by Tuesday night, but another 91,000 vote-by-mail ballots are still out there, which could delay final results, Bever said.
The strongest showing of early votes came from the Northwest and Southwest sides, as well as the north lakefront, Bever said. One poll worker, who asked not to be named, said he saw stronger turnout at early voting sites in areas with aldermanic races also on the ballot.
Public safety, probably the most talked-about issue during the campaign, was top of mind for some Tuesday voters.
Logan Square resident Tessa Banks cast her ballot at Darwin School, 3116 W. Belden Ave., and prefers Brandon Johnson’s plan to hire more detectives and “restructure the police budget.” Banks said she had been undecided up until last week.
A friend of hers was recently shot in Edgewater, Banks said.
“It feels like this issue is just a degree of seperation away for all of us,” Banks said. “And I think Brandon will do a better job of making the city safer.”
Outside the Humboldt Park Library, 1605 N. Troy St., Wilmari Vèlez said she voted for Paul Vallas, who has the endorsement of the Chicago Fraternial Order of Police.
“He’s been pro-police department and I come from a family that’s in the line of duty. My biggest concern is keeping them safe,” Vèlez said. “Every vote counts right now.”
With a surge in early voting, the Humboldt Park Library has seen “a consistent flow of people for the last week,” said Rhonda Bullock, the site’s poll investigator.
Lines stretched out the library’s door Tuesday morning and down the block into the parking lot late Monday night, Bullock said.
“Yesterday and today turnout has been exceptional,” Bullock said while putting out some pizza for the poll workers. “This is it. And then we rest.”