Primary election 2022: Voter turnout remains low with early voting underway in Chicago, data shows

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicagoans continue to cast their ballots ahead of next Tuesday's primaries, but there isn't a lot.

Data from the city shows just 61,377 ballots have been cast, and experts say that's behind previous primaries.

What this could mean for the election and what people want to see happen in the future?

Bombarded with mailers and campaign ads, voters are reminded every day that there is an election coming up. Yet, in the city of Chicago, voter turnout remains very low.

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"It's a shame. Elections are important. People choose who governs them and these are critical times," said Bob Repel, who voted early.

"I think people get a little complacent. I don't know, it's important. I hope there is a surge in voting here," said fellow early voter, Jennifer Bontrager.

Whether it's early voting, voting by mail or Election Day voting, the Chicago Board of Elections is hopeful for a surge before and on Tuesday. So far, only about 25,000 voters have early voted and thousands of requested mail-in ballots continue to sit in voters' homes.

"We have received almost 124,000 applications to vote by mail and only 31,000 returned vote by mail ballots," said Board Chairman Marisel Hernandez with the Chicago Board of Elections.

Traditionally, turnout is lower for midterm primaries. In March 2014, only 16.54% of registered voters voted. Turnout in March 2018 was 32.69%. The Board of Elections is hoping this year's numbers will be something in between.

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Hernandez believes moving the primary from March to late June is having an impact on turnout.

"Voters have other issues on their minds -- kids are off of school, they are planning vacations," she said.

Depending on the final numbers, Hernandez may suggest to state lawmakers to move the primary back to late winter, early spring the next time if turnout continues to be low. Political experts say it's incumbents who tend to benefit from low turnout.

"They also tend to have organizations, so they can be sure to get out the vote. They can reach voters and make sure they can get the dedicated voters to the polls," said ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington.

Voters who have already cast their ballots are encouraging others to do so.

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"I'm an attorney and I know how important the judiciary races are in particular. I especially come out for those," Bontrager said.

"It was really easy to vote downtown, it was fast. I feel like it's our duty to vote," said April Lynn, who also voted early.

The Chicago Board of Elections tries to make it as easy as possible, from same-day registration to keeping all 51 early voting sites open all weekend through Election Day.
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