Bruce Rauner Photo

Bruce Rauner won a Republican primary that saw low voter turnout in March. (Photo/Emily Brosious)

2014 Illinois Primary Voter Turnout at Historic Low

By Kenny Reiter

Posted: Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

Illinois had record low voter turnout in March's primary election at 19 percent, and with the general election just over two months away, Illinois voters will have one last chance to make their voices heard.

Bruce Newman, a DePaul University marketing professor and expert in voter behavior, explained the importance of voters taking advantage of the primaries, and what bearing their votes will have on the general election.

“Turnout in a primary election is critical because the result of all of these determine who the nominee of a party will be,” said Newman, a Clinton White House adviser. “Whether or not turnout reflects on what one can expect in a general election depends on who the nominees of each party are, how close the election is, whether or not there are serious pending issues, and how effective the marketing campaigns of the nominees are.”

Chicago is home to just more than a million registered voters, but this past March, only about 200,000 votes were cast in the Illinois Governor’s primary, according to the Cook County Clerk’s Post Election Post-Election Report.

This trend is not limited to Chicago, as suburban Cook County has reported similar numbers and statewide numbers hovered around 19 percent turnout. While the number of registered voters is at a record high for suburban Cook County, turnout is at a record low.


Illinois Voter Turnout IconThe Red Line Project's Kenny Reiter mapped 2014 primary voter turnout in all Illinois counties.

Sources: Cook County Clerk Post Election report, elections.il.gov


From 1990 to 2014, the number of registered voters in suburban Cook County rose from 1.2 million to over 1.4 million. In the same period of time voter turnout fell from 30.2 percent to only 16 percent.

As a whole, Illinois has 7.5 million registered voters, yet the Illinois State Board of Elections reported about 1.4 million ballots cast. Voter turnout for the gubernatorial primary was about 19 percent.

Newman offered several reasons for the low turnout. It may be that voters are feeling disenchanted with their leaders on a county level, he said. It may be that voters think there are no pending issues that will affect them, or even they have lost confidence in Washington and it is trickling down to local elections, he said.

Although voting in the primary sets the stage for what is to come, unfortunately, some voters have “a sense that their vote does not matter,” Newman said.

McCormick Foundation Logo

This Data/Chicago project made possible by 
journalism grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Return to Election 2014 Guide | The Red Line Project

Feedback: Contact the reporter via Twitter or leave a comment below.


Social | Video