(This was was originally written for SLPN, who is our partner in this study.)
It’s a cliche to talk about Chicago as a tale of two different cities. We have 77 neighborhoods and 94 zip codes. But really, there are two Chicagos. Most of the metrics you show on a map will lay that out for you. The Vote By Mail data that we have received so far from the Board of Elections is no exception.
As of Monday, the city has received about 370,000 vote by mail applications. That’s about 24% of all voters, which is pretty good. The wards with the most vote by mail applications are the 44th and 47th, both of which are knocking on 50% of all voters. The 15th, 16th, and 24th Wards are struggling to break 10%. The map below is color coded from dark red to purple, showing the areas with the least to most VBM applications.
Our interest is in the South Lakefront. If we look at the 7th, 8th, 10th, and 20th Wards, we see the applications stagnant at around 14%. This is a slow start, compared to the rest of the city. It’s not the worst, but it’s far from the rates we are seeing in wards on the North Lakefront. There are a lot of reasons why this may be the case. We do know that there isn’t the sort of voter engagement in our community that we see in other parts of the city. Our community also don’t have the sort of competitive races seen elsewhere. We believe that everyone should be able to vote safely however they want. But we also believe that there hasn’t been enough outreach with VBM information.
There is good news in the data. First, these rates are far higher than what we saw in the primary, when Illinois made the decision to go forward with its election at the start of the pandemic. In the 20th Ward, the VBM applications have increased by 250%. In the 10th Ward, VBM applications are three times what they were in March. And both wards had high return rates for the primary. If we can get VBM applications to folks, and let them know all the different ways they can return them, we can be fairly sure they will vote.
We also have over a month to continue to sign people up, so hopefully, we can make an impact on these numbers over the next few weeks.