Illinois primary election: Voter turnout in Chicago surprisingly low so far

After casting her own ballot Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered several theories for why voter turnout in this month's primary election is so far surprisingly low.

"People didn't recognize that there's actually an election. As you know, we don't normally vote at the end of June," Lightfoot said.

Voter turnout is currently on track to be lower than in 2014, a midterm primary election in which Democrats got clobbered.

"The in-person early voting seems to be lower, a lot lower than what I would have expected. I would have expected it on this day to be maybe double what it is now," said Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.


As slow as early voting has been in most parts of Illinois, row after row of empty booths at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners so-called super site in the Loop reflect how few voters seem interested in the city.

As of Tuesday, 17,855 Chicagoans had voted early, which is barely 40% of the more than 43,000 who did by this point in 2018 — the last midterm election year when only 26% of all voters turned out.

In the midterm election before that, in 2014, total turnout was only 18% in the primary. Far more Republicans voted than Democrats, setting the stage for the GOP’s Bruce Rauner to win the governorship that fall.

Lightfoot hopes Democrats get motivated.

"I'm particularly concerned obviously with the impending decision by the Supreme Court to invalidate Roe. This is where we've got to make sure that the Democratic base is motivated," Lightfoot said.

Reformers argued for years that moving primary elections from chilly March into a month with better weather would improve voter turnout. There could be a surge in the next week, but so far that theory is proving a dud.