Illinois Voter Project’s Compelling Numbers

Last Wednesday, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform introduced the Illinois Voter Project, an endeavor designed to aggregate non-partisan election data to analyze voting trends in the state. The data takes in account the Illinois population, the number of active voters who have exercised their right within the last four years, and the number of eligible voters. This is the first time this data has been available in this format to the public.

Several notable trends have emerged from this data. In 2008, significantly more Democratic ballots were cast in Illinois than Republican ballots – 66 percent to 30 percent respectively. Over the course of three subsequent primaries, that number has all but switched, with more Republican ballots being cast by 2014. (61 percent Republican topping 36 percent Democratic votes cast.)

The 18 to 24 voter block in Illinois is 12.8 percent of the state’s eligible voters. These are the voters with a typically low voter turnout. (38 percent in 2012, according to the census.) About 55 percent of those eligible voters are active voters.

“Young people feel apathetic to it,” said Ashley Lavelle, a 23 year-old artist in Chicago, in regard to voting. “That’s counter intuitive. You should get out and vote.” With the rise of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, however, youth may be getting increasingly more involved with the election. Lavelle is registered in the upcoming Illinois primary.

This Tuesday, March 15, Illinois primary voters will take the polls. Currently, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump hold firm leads with 13.7 and 9 point spreads, respectively. That data is aggregated by Real Clear Politics using CBS, NBC, and We Ask America polling from the last several days. Last week, the Chicago Tribune and Simon Poll information had both of those spreads much higher. The Democratic and Republican primaries are ‘open,’ meaning registered voters can participate in either party’s primary, but not both.

The way the parties divvy up delegates in the state, however, is different. Much like South Carolina or Florida, Republicans operate under the umbrella of a ‘winner-take-all’ system in Illinois. The victor of the Republican Illinois primary will, in turn, take home 69 delegates. The Democratic primary, which houses 182 delegates, is ‘proportional,’ meaning candidates divide the delegates based on performance.

Democrats need 2,383 delegates for their nomination, while Republicans need 1,237. Clinton and Trump stand at the top of their party delegate counts with 1,231 and 460 pledged delegates. Since Clinton-contender Sanders holds 576 and Trump-contender Ted Cruz holds 370, the Republican race is much closer. Given that Illinois is a ‘winner-take-all’ state for the party, the 69 Republican delegates could make a decisive impact.

On March 3, the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, spoke out against front-runner Donald Trump in a speech in Salt Lake City. Like many establishment Republicans, Romney harbors a harsh sentiment toward Trump. Thus, he suggested the party force a brokered convention by having party members vote specifically for the candidate most likely to defeat the real estate mogul in their state. Without Trump having the 1,237 delegates needed, a brokered convention could allow the Republican establishment to oust Trump by imposing a new nominee on the convention floor.

While he suffered defeat in most states on Super Tuesday, Democratic contender Bernie Sanders defied most odds last week on March 8, by narrowly taking the Michigan primary. With 182 delegates up for grabs, Sanders’ play toward Illinois Democrats could measurably benefit his campaign. That, alongside the Republicans’ fracturing via Trump, makes this Tuesday’s primary one Illinois voters should head on out to.

This is part of OPE’s hard news reporting on the ground. Brett Stewart attended the Illinois Voter Project unveiling and conducted the interviews.

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Chicago skyline feature photo courtesy of Maricel Cruz.

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