Only half of Illinois eligible voters cast ballots in previous elections, data analysis shows

U.S. Rep. Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia represents Illinois' 4th congressional district, which had lowest 2018 IL turnout

ByKaren Jordan and Ross Weidner, Jonathan Fagg WLS logo
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Only half of Illinois eligible voters cast ballots in previous elections, data analysis shows
Only half of eligible Illinois voters cast ballots in recent elections, a new ABC 7 Chicago data analysis shows.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As election season heats up, a new analysis by the ABC7 Data Team is looking at voter turnout in a different way.

Normally, voter turnout is tracked by looking at how many registered voters show up at the polls. But now, ABC 7 Chicago has found a large number of eligible voters across Chicagoland that hasn't voted in previous elections.

RELATED: Illinois Election 2020: Meet the Candidates

The ABC7 Data Team analyzed voter turnout across Illinois for the 2016 and 2018 elections by looking at the turnout compared to the total number of eligible voters, including people who are eligible but haven't registered to vote.

In 2018, Chicago was home to four out of the five congressional districts in Illinois with the lowest turnout of eligible voters. They are:

  • the 4th congressional district, represented by U.S. Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, D-Chicago, at 43.7%
  • the 8th congressional district, represented by U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Schaumburg, at 44%
  • the 2nd congressional district, represented by U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, at 46.2%
  • the 3rd congressional district represented by U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs, at 46.8%
  • "Those are probably the strongest democratic districts in the state, and it reflects on some of the challenges the Democratic Party has as far as getting out the vote," ABC7 political analyst Laura Washington said.

    RELATED: Illinois counties with 10% mail-in ballots rejected in 2016 and 2018 US elections

    In 2018, the statewide turnout for eligible voters was 50%, higher than in all these districts. ABC 7 Chicago's analysis of data for 2016 suggests a trend. That election year, the 4th congressional district had the lowest number of eligible voters registering and heading to the polls.

    By contrast, ABC 7 Chicago's analysis found in the 2018 congressional race that the 6th congressional district had the highest turnout of eligible voters in the state at 61%. In that race this year, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, is being challenged by Republican Jeanne Ives.

    As to why it may be hard to motivate eligible voters, some political experts cite apathy, but say there will be consequences with the completion of the census.

    "Congressional districts that don't turn out, their folks may be more likely to be on the chopping block if there is a need to reduce the number of districts," Washington said.