Early-bird voting for Chicago mayor surpasses 2015 turnout

Local election officials will start counting votes for mayor in less than 22 hours, but they warn it may be days or weeks before the results are final. 

Only 34 percent of Chicago voters cast ballots four years ago in the first round election for mayor and city council. While it's not clear if any more will show up this time, early bird voters now exceed those numbers for 2015.

“Individuals who requested a vote by mail may still be undecided,” said Marisel Hernandez, Chair, Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. “But the time is now!”

If the vote count Tuesday night is close, the outcome could depend on late-arriving vote by mail ballots. As of Monday, 38,000 had not yet been returned.  

By state law, all of them postmarked by Tuesday must be counted, provided the postal service delivers them by March 12 to the Board of Election Commissioners.

Election officials say Lori Lightfoot, Toni Preckwinkle, and Bill Daley are basically neck and neck. 

“[Lori] Lightfoot, [Toni] Preckwinkle and [Bill] Daley, all three are basically neck and neck -- 14, 14, 14, according to our poll,” said Jeremy Bird, President of 270 Strategies. “And then a couple other candidates at 10, 9.”

Right behind Lightfoot, Preckwinkle and Daley: Susana Mendoza, Gery Chico and Willie Wilson, all within the poll's margin of error, setting the stage for real political drama.

 “You don't want to be one of the people who wakes up on Wednesday morning and says, ‘I can't believe candidate X is, you know, the first or second one on the ballot!’ Well, did you vote?” said Hernandez. 

It's one election where every vote will be important, even if it takes two weeks to get a final count.