While officials had expected about a 52 percent turnout, the actual total was much lower. Closer to 42 or 43 percent of registered voters went to the polls.
It appeared Tuesday night that Emanuel would win with roughly 325,000 total votes, which appeared to be the lowest total of any victorious candidate for Chicago mayor in the past three decades.
Emanuel's total could be the lowest winning vote total ever in a Chicago mayoral contest.
The low turnout came amid hotly contested aldermanic races and the chance for the citizens of the City of Chicago to elect a brand new mayor for the first time in decades.
"It's been a little bit slower than we expected. We're hoping for a strong final hour of the evening, but it's been lighter than expected turnout today," said Neal as Election Day wound to a close.
The relatively low turnout means that with Rahm Emanuel winning the race outright, he could assume office with support from less than 25 percent of the total Chicago electorate. He avoided a runoff by getting more than 50 percent plus one vote of the total ballots cast.
The frontrunner in the polls before Election Day was the former White House Chief of Staff. The five other tenacious candidates attempted unsuccessfully Tuesday to chip away at that candidate's lead and force an April runoff.
Mayor Daley announced in September 2010 he would not run for re-election.
Authorities reported 73,200 early votes. They also said at least 18,000 absentee ballots had been turned in.
At the polls Tuesday, some voters talked about how they made their choices and the issues that matter to them.
"I kind of struggled and had a hard time making the decision, but did some research and of course talked with some friends and colleagues. Politics always tends to be a topic of conversation this time of year," said voter Ladonna Hillman.
Many voters seemed to base their decision on who they feel is best for Chicago.
"Clearly, the city is confronted with an awful lot of financial and economic problems and it is going to take some real strong leadership from the mayor but importantly as well I think from aldermen, council members as we move forward through this," said voter Chan Peterson.
"I think the city has a number of things that have to be addressed, and certainly the city budget is the most prominent among those," said voter David Cardenas.
Not everyone was excited about the choices on the mayoral ballot.
"The alderman is the only guy I voted for because he came door to door. I believe in his principles, and I thought he was a good guy. So, I decided to come out and vote for him," said voter Nick Gibson.
Gibson said he chose to write in a candidate for mayor -- Ronald Reagan.
"That's the only guy that I can believe in his principles right now," he said.
Because of the overall strong level of interest, the Chicago Board of Elections and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office said they would have investigators watching.
"We'll have over 200 investigators on the street today that work closely in coordinated fashion with the state's attorney. We'll be out in all the polling places, precincts at some time during the day. There are only seven uncontested aldermanic races," Neal said.
In other elections Tuesday, Susana Mendoza won the race for city clerk, and incumbent City Treasurer Stephanie Neely was unopposed.
ABC7 will have comprehensive election coverage Tuesday night with live updates and results throughout the evening and expanded coverage on the news at 10 p.m.
Voters can also get continuous results on ABC7Chicago.com.
For viewers on-the-go, the latest election results are on web-enabled phones and wireless handhelds at www.abc7togo.com.
One precinct remains open late after morning trouble
The polls officially closed at 7 p.m., but voters in one South Side precinct were allowed to cast ballots until 8 p.m. because of some problems Tuesday morning.
Judges at that 20th Ward precinct at a South Side church were giddy Tuesday morning when they could finally open up for voters. The judges were on time, but the person with the key to the church apparently overslept.
"We could not get in; basically, the door was locked and we couldn't get a hold of anybody who could open the door until about a quarter of 8," said election judge Sandra Price. "And a few people did come to vote. We had to turn them away."
The election judges huddled in cars out front making calls to election officials downtown, and then it took a couple hours to locate the church pastor and make arrangements for him to unlock the doors.
Overall, Neal said that there were very few problems Tuesday.