Illinois Sees Low Voter Turnout Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Nancy Harty
March 17, 2020 - 10:32 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- It was a rough election day for Illinois, which saw a low voter turnout due to the coronavirus outbreak that impacted polling locations, saw elderly judges cancel and social distancing regulations tested.

Polling locations across the city — many which closed and changed last minute due to coronavirus concerns — were largely empty Tuesday, as people trickled in to vote with gloves or hand sanitizer in toe. Voter turnout was 20% with just over 300,000 in-person ballots cast, according to the Chicago Board of Elections, a significant drop from last year and the 2016 election.

Chicago Board of Elections spokesperson Jim Allen said 171,000 early votes were not included in tonight's count because early voting locations were kept open until Monday. That also does not include mail-in ballots, which will be counted and accepted through March 31. 

Suburban Cook County saw a 33% drop down from the last presidential election and reported 95.3% of suburban Cook County precincts as of late Tuesday night.

The suburbs also reported that 15% of in-person turnouts were boomers over 70 years old, making them the largest group of voters for the day. More women came out to vote in Suburban Cook County than men, reported the clerk's office.

Political analyst Andy Shaw called the voter turnout an "abomination" and said the low number of voters represents the lack of interest in politics due to the coronavirus. 

Shaw said the low turnout is about a 40 percent drop from 2016's Democratic primaries, where nearly 2 million democratic votes were cast. He predicts that1.3 million were cast today at most.

"Not enough people participated," Shaw said. 

When elections see lower voter turnout, he said incumbents see advantages — adding that this is because elections are historically unfair. 

"Elections have historically been rigged to make it more complicated to vote so incumbents get their supports out and challengers don’t," he said.