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A quick look ahead to November

Tuesday, Mar 31, 2020

* Daily Herald

The general election ballot is set, but there’s much still to be known in the race to represent the 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republican primary winner Jeanne Ives will challenge Democratic incumbent Sean Casten in the November contest to claim the House seat representing an area from Hinsdale and Naperville through Elgin to just beyond Long Grove.

But the spread of the coronavirus is keeping people in their homes, making early campaigning an unusual challenge. And changes in economic and social behavior caused by the virus mean typically safe bets about elections are off, political scientists say.

“Forecasts of the 2020 election are harder than ever given the unpredictable fallout from the pandemic,” said Brian Gaines, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Department of Political Science and at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. “With ordinary life on hold for who knows how long, it is hard to guess whether turnout will be nothing like usual, e.g. the usually reliable elderly staying home, and whether incumbents will be enjoying an approval rally or a backlash of frustration that normal life isn’t back.”

It’s far too soon to be speculating about fall turnout. We are literally in uncharted modern waters and we have no idea what the future will bring. As for canvasses, not that many general election candidates are out in full force in March and April anyway. Fundraising is an issue, however.

* The 1918 influenza pandemic dissipated over the summer, but then came back with a vengeance in the fall

The election took place during the Spanish flu pandemic. Campaigning was disrupted around the country. In Nebraska, for instance, authorities lifted a ban on public gatherings in early November 1918 and permitted politicians to campaign five days prior to polls opening. The turnout was 40%, which was unusually low for a midterm election (turnout was at 52% and 50% in the 1910 and 1914 midterm elections). The low turnout was possibly due to the disruption caused by the pandemic.

* The virus slammed our collective consciousness shortly before the primary, so some folks didn’t take advantage of the mail-in ballot option. But the numbers in Chicago were pretty high

Despite fears that the coronavirus would keep Chicagoans from voting, mail-in ballots trickling in are inching the city’s primary turnout to nearly 35%.

That’s down sharply from the 53.52% city turnout in the 2016 presidential primary and the 52.70% in 2008, but above or comparable to the city’s showing in the remaining three presidential primaries this century — including 2012 when only 24.46% of voters cast ballots. […]

On Monday, the city’s turnout rose by nearly three percentage points, going from 32.62% a few days after the primary to nearly 35% as the city counted additional vote-by-mail ballots that were postmarked in time. […]

Of the city’s 117,119 mail-in ballot applications, 91,706 ballots have been returned as of Monday morning, according to city records. Of that number, 8,437 were rejected for reasons like not being postmarked on or before March 17.

A big problem with mail-in ballots is that some election officials nitpick them to death. Maybe the signatures don’t exactly match, or some little bit of info is wrong or left off.

Also, remember how the city’s elections board screamed about “extremely” low turnout on primary day? That obviously wasn’t the case. That board either needs a total revamp or should be folded into Cook County’s system.

…Adding… With a hat tip to a commenter, the city’s turnout is now up to 37.18 percent.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

12 Comments
  1. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:15 pm:

    I wonder what the historical reasons are for the CBOE and Cook County Clerk being separate entities. They are probably somewhat nefarious. Richard J Daley never liked to release Chicago’s election results before downstate released theirs.


  2. - Marquee - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:15 pm:

    The latest update has Chicago turnout over 37%

    https://chicagoelections.gov/dm/SummaryReport.pdf


  3. - Marquee - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:19 pm:

    The Election Code lets any city by referendum establish its own Board of Elections. Currently the 6 that have them are Chicago, Bloomington, Danville, East St Louis, Galesburg and Rockford.


  4. - Norseman - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:20 pm:

    I’m dreaming of a 5-day campaign season. Just like the one they had before. May the baloney be short so the candidates can’t distort …


  5. - Marquee - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:21 pm:

    Peoria and Aurora used to have separate boards of elections but they both recently abolished them and moved operations back to the County to save some money.


  6. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:22 pm:

    ===The Election Code lets any city by referendum establish===

    Codes can be changed.


  7. - Titan - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:35 pm:

    The origin of city election commissions wasn’t nefarious. It was a reaction to nefarious. In the old days, cities (and other local government units) ran their own local elections. They were not run by the county. City election commissions allowed for city elections to be run with all the safeguards that were in place for state/federal elections run by the counties (such as registration rolls).


  8. - TheInvisibleMan - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:44 pm:

    I just can’t see Ives winning that district. Naperville isn’t Wheaton.

    The state rep 97th race looks pretty interesting too. I’d be surprised if that one doesn’t flip.


  9. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:53 pm:

    Thirty seven per cent is awful. Maybe we need mandatory voting. Okay, maybe not, but people who don’t vote should be persuaded somehow to do this one little thing every coupe of years.


  10. - Rutro - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:54 pm:

    I think the city and county have done an admirable job with the mail counting considering the circumstances.
    One thing is clear though, if we go to more mail based system (or more effective), they will really need to ramp up the staffing (and counting areas, think warehouse).


  11. - Leatherneck - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 3:39 pm:

    - Marquee - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 1:21 pm:

    Peoria and Aurora used to have separate boards of elections but they both recently abolished them and moved operations back to the County to save some money.
    ————–

    Springfield used to have one too until IIRC the late 1990s.


  12. - Been There - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 6:09 pm:

    ==• A big problem with mail-in ballots is that some election officials nitpick them to death. Maybe the signatures don’t exactly match, or some little bit of info is wrong or left off.===
    Obviously a lot tougher to get volunteers to go down and be a poll watcher while those ballots come in. Just like with petition challenges if your person is down there arguing their point of view it can make a difference. Or at least allow an objection to be filed.


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