More Austin voters turned out for the midterm elections on Nov. 4, 2014 than they did in 2010, according to voter turnout data from the city of Chicago.
Just over 40,000 residents in the 28th, 29th and 37th wards voted in last Tuesday’s election, up from roughly 37,800 in the 2010 midterm cycle, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners website.
Austin’s 29th Ward brought out the most voters this year, just over 15,400. Voter registration in Austin saw an even greater increase between the two midterm cycles, from just under 79,000 in 2010 to about 94,000 in 2014. For neighboring West Side wards in the 24th and 27th, midterm voter turnout saw a decline and increase respectively.
Last Tuesday saw about 10,700 voters in the 24th Ward, and roughly 13,400 voters in the 27th Ward, go to the polls. In 2010, more than 13,000 24th Ward voters showed up; in the 27th Ward, about 13,300 voters went to the polls.
All three of Austin wards, meanwhile, saw midterm turnout increase from 2010 to 2014.
But the city’s overall voter turnout this year was down from the last midterms, dropping from roughly 705,000 in ’10 to about 640,000 in ’14.
“One the one hand, people were very interested in the governor’s race and feeling very frustrated about politics and wanting to express an opinion one way or another about that,” said David Melton, executive director of The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “On the other hand, I think people were feeling very frustrated about politics and very frustrated about whether their vote would have any impact.”
That frustration, Melton added, may have resulted in voter cynicism.
A pilot project to register voters on the same day as the election was launched this year, and also may have led to higher voter turnout on the West Side, Melton said.
The city of Chicago, however, underestimated how popular same-day-registration would be, according to Melton, who noted that there were only five sites that offered same-day-registration in the city.
“I think the success, in terms of demonstrating that there are a number of people who will take advantage of the fact that they can register and vote on the same day, means that the legislature should give very serious consideration to immediately implementing same-day-registration that would be available at your regular polling place — as it is in most states that have the same programs,” Melton said.
New technologies, such as online voter registration, available during this year’s elections, could have also contributed to the higher turnout rate on the West Side, said Dick Simpson, professor in the Department of Political Science at University of Illinois Chicago.
Early voting has become more popular with voters, as well. More than 500,000 people cast early votes in Illinois. In Chicago, more than 150,000 early vote ballots were cast, according to a recent interview by CBS with Cook County Clerk David Orr.
Terry Dean contributed to this story