Starks warns: ‘Low turnout favors Rahm Emanuel’
By Chinta Strausberg
Chicago, IL – In what some thought would be another historic day since today falls on the 28thÂ anniversary of the election of the late Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago Election Board Chairman Langdon D. Neal Tuesday said itâ€™s turning out to be a â€œfairly uneventful dayâ€ with the exception of one admitted drunken 17thÂ Ward election judge who removed herself from her post.
Chicago has 1,406,037 registered voters and 25,000 absentee ballots including those from nursing homes, the military and overseas.
In a teleconference with reporters, Langdon and Jim Allen, director of Communications for the Board of Election Commissioners, said as of around 1:45 p.m., turnout hovered between 40-45 percent. â€œWe are no where near where we expected,â€ said Allen. Langdon said this percentage is citywide.
What is unusual about today, explained Langdon is that â€œitâ€™s been pretty consistent all day. Usually, we have a surge in the morning the first hour-and-a-half and we have a surge in the last hour-and-a-half, but so far today, itâ€™s been pretty consistent throughout the day. We have not seen a surge.â€
Saying the board did not have any serious problems through the day, Langdon confirmed they did have aÂ few issues of electioneering but that was a relatively small number of cases. There were almost no equipment issues as well.
However, the board is currently in court to extend the voting hours of the 19thÂ precinct of the 20thWard because the pastor, who owns the polling site, overslept resulting in the late opening of the facility.
â€œWeâ€™re hoping for a later rush of good strong 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. period of voting because at this point the numbers are not as strong as we expected,â€ said Langdon.
â€œWe were anticipating based on the early voting numbers and based on the absentee ballot applications returned and requested that we would be over 50 percent,â€ said Langdon admitting, â€œIt will take a strong effort and turnout between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to reach that point.â€
Langdon said, â€œIt seems that a greater percentage of voters are choosing early voting as a means of casting their ballot.â€
According to Langdon, four-years ago they were at 33 percent and four-years prior it was about the same. â€œSo, we would be over where we were four-years ago and the proceeding election to that, but when we have an election where we have not had an incumbent mayor in over 60-years, we expected a greater turnout,â€ said Langdon.
The early votes will not be counted until the polls close at 7 p.m. and when the Board begins to receive votes from the precincts. â€œWhen those votes received, they are merged with the early vote tallies from the particular precincts in which those early votes belong,â€ said Langdon. â€œThey are tabulated precinct-by-precinct,â€
While Langdon could not narrow down which wards were experiencing high or low turnout at this time, he said, â€œThere is not one area of the city that is out-performing greatly in another area. They are generally all within the lower side and some in the high 30â€™s and the larger wards the mid 40â€™s.â€
The Board has received 19,000 absentee ballots out of a possible pool of 25,000 applications that were processed, Allen said.Â Â He said 73,205 voted in the Early Voting Program.
According to Allen, the Board is hoping for at least a 40 percent turnout but said earlier today in some pockets he heard reports it was â€œbarely 20 percent.â€
Asked what time would be the final outcome, Langdon said â€œbecause of the need for precision with the percentage of actual votes that a candidate needs (50 percent plus one vote), you really need to get into the 90 percent range before you can predict or call a winner.â€
When asked if a candidate request a recount, Langdon said the official results cannot be declared for over two-weeks from today because by law they have two-weeks to receive and count overseas and military ballots along with late arriving absentee ballots.
Â â€œThere cannot be an official declaration of a winner until we complete that two-week process and that is generally about three-weeks from today,â€ Langdon said.
â€œIf for any race, it comes down to the last few votes, then there is no official winner until the last vote is counted,â€ Langdon said. He explained that to win a candidate must get 50 percent of the ballots cast plus one additional vote.
The Board will be posted between 7:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., according to Langdon. The ballots are counted in the precinct then transmitted to the Board.
Robert Starks, a political professor at the Northeastern University and political editor of the Nâ€™DIGO newspaper, said he too thought the percentage of voter turnout would be higher â€œgiven the fight over the mayorâ€™s race.â€
Starks warned, â€œa low turnout favors Rahm Emanual and a higher turnout would give Carol Moseley Braun a better chance of winning.â€
Starks added, â€œOn the eve of 28thÂ anniversary of the death of Mayor Harold Washington, his executive secretary, Delores Woods died.â€
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host.