Chicago hopes for 50 percent voter turnout

February 21, 2011 5:06:34 PM PST
Hundreds of students joined the effort to get out the vote for Tuesday's city election.

About 300 students from eight high schools went door-to-door Monday urging people to go to the polls. Election officials said they are ready for what is expected to be a good turnout.

"It is very important to vote, because if you don't put a vote in, someone might get in office and do something you don't like and you could have made a change. You could have voted and it probably would have been different," O'Sha Dancy, student, said.

"Every vote counts. You have to vote for the right person so our education can be good," said Keshundra Neal, student.

Education -- not a specific candidate -- is the talking point for the teenagers as they go door-to-door. The students are members the non-profit organization Voices of Youth in Chicago Education.

"We are a non-profit organization. We're not going to say vote for him because he is best. We will tell them, your opinion, that's you. This is your community. Vote for what you want in your community," Pierre Williams, student, said.

"Often people feel disengaged and someone knocking on the door, if they recognize them from the next generation as engaged, can give that person a kick to say I'm going to get out and vote," JiTu Brown, Voices of Youth in Chicago, said.

Even with a record number of candidates and the first mayoral race in 64 years without an incumbent, turnout is expected to be less than the municipal election in 1989 where it was close 70 percent. But Chicago Election Board Chairman Langdon Neal is hopeful by today's standards turnout will be strong.

"We're hoping to exceed and pretty much come close to where we were in the fall's election of over 50 percent," Neal said.

Neal says he is not seeing the kind of get out vote effort this election compared to past ones. It's more of an individual choice than a group one. He says the atmosphere has changed since the days of machine politics where armies of city workers were involved in the get out the vote effort.

Neal also believes last November's statewide elections may have resulted in voter fatigue.