Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
I was never an outstanding student until I reached graduate school. I excelled at discussing policy. American government. Campaign finance. And state government. As an undergrad, calculus was my undoing. Followed by statistics. Crop science and I never quite got along. But I rocked animal science. Animal behavior. Technical writing. Farm management.
Since math has always evaded me, I had to double check Cook County’s voter turnout. Just over 20 percent of registered suburban Cook County voters turned out for the June primary.
Registered Chicago voters showed up at basically the same rate. Voters ages 65-74 led the way followed by voters ages 55-64. Twenty percent is by far not the lowest voter turnout in recent history. It’s not the best either. In fact, in Chicago, one in five voters went to the polls. An eight-year low.
Thirty-three percent of registered voters turned out for the 2018 primary. The 2018 primary featured a six-way race on the Democratic ticket for Governor. Then Illinois Senator Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy came in second and third respectively to now Governor J.B. Pritzker. On the Republican side then Governor Bruce Rauner faced Jeanne Ives. On the Democratic ticket for Attorney General, then Senator Kwame Raoul bested former Governor Pat Quinn. My point isn’t a walk down political memory lane though I quite enjoyed it. My point is that while this year’s primary featured some excitement on the Republican side of the ticket, primaries are historically lackluster. Non-Presidential primaries are especially lackluster.
It's also reasonable to assume that a summer primary when most people are headed to the beach. Vacation. Festivals. Isn’t top of their ‘to do’ list. Voters are supposed to trudge through snow to vote. Through cold sheets of rain. Across sodden ground. Not under the most perfect mid-summer sun and cool early evening breeze.
Despite lackluster interest and a summer primary date, voter access was at an all-time high. Early voting sites increased. Mail-in ballots remained the new norm. The DuPage County Election Authority even debuted their ‘Vote Anywhere’ voting system, which allowed DuPage County voters to go to any polling place, enter their address and have an individualized ballot printed. Again voter access was at an all-time high.
Dismissal primary turnout is especially disheartening in Cook County where the primary essentially serves as “the final election.” All 17 Cook County Board seats are up for election this fall but only 4 look to have competitive races. Voters in the nineth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and seventeenth districts will have the option of selecting a Republican or Democratic to represent them. I don’t mean to sound like a downer, but the rest of the local races are pretty well decided. By just over 20 percent of registered voters.
I haven’t missed a primary election since turning 20. I didn’t appreciate the importance of voting right away. I still remember the excitement I felt voting in my first election. At the time I was working for a downstate senator who wasn’t running for re-election, but his handpicked successor was on the ballot. I waltzed right into that booth and cast my vote for him.
This fall all voters need to waltz into the voting booth and vote for the candidates of their choice.