Civic engagement groups are stepping up efforts to get voters to the polls for the Illinois primary on June 28.
The effort comes as 73 Chicago precincts remain without a designated polling place due to pandemic-related closures. Voters affected by the closures will have to vote by mail, vote early or go to a site open to their entire neighborhood on Election Day. Civic advocacy groups fear the closures will impact voting access.
“This is another obstacle preventing people from going to the polls. We know that people already face many challenges when it comes to getting to the polls to vote in the first place, and now we see that there would be challenges… in knowing where to actually go to vote, and that just seems like another hurdle to keep people from actually getting to the polls,” said Chaundra Van Dyk, Chicago project manager at CHANGE Illinois.
The primaries are usually held in March, but this year they are held in June to account for delayed data from the 2020 census.
“I think there are a lot of great things that can happen with the elections taking place in the summer. Usually when we vote in Chicago it’s freezing cold, so hopefully with the sun people feel more energized and want to get to the polls,” said Stevie Valles, executive director of Voting in Chicagoa non-profit association working for the civic engagement of young people.
After: Find videos, quizzes and candidate biographical information in the WTTW 2022 Primary Election Voter’s Guide.
Voters may also see themselves in new congressional districts this year, as new maps for the state were enacted in November last year.
“We’ve done a lot of work to really focus on educating communities across the state about the importance of engagement, sharing information online where people can locate their new districts and see where they find themselves and share voter registration information to make sure people know they can do early voter registration, just trying to educate communities about all these different resources and information that they need to make sure they get to the polls, know where they’re voting, know their new districts,” Van Dyk says.
Chicago Votes has done similar work to engage young voters. The organization has created and distributed a voter’s guide to easily break down offices in election.
“We’re trying to make voting fun, we’re having ballot box parties in North Lawndale and Englewood and Woodlawn over the next week, so they’ll be gardening, BBQs, music, murals lots of fun ways to get people where they can actually vote,” Valles said. “So we’re just trying to meet everyone where they are and provide fun and innovative ways for people to not only feel informed enough to participate, but feel like participating is actually fun.”
Voter turnout in midterm elections tends to be lower than in presidential elections. According Fair Voting67% of eligible Illinois voters turned out for the 2020 presidential race, up from 52% in the 2018 midterms.
“I think most people in America, when you talk about voting, the first thing that comes to mind is voting for president, and so I think part of the reason there’s such a turnout in presidential elections is because it’s the biggest election you can participate in as an American voter,” Valles said. “I think it’s very important for us, as advocates and organizers, to do all we can to instill in our society the culture of civic education and participation, so that people understand that these local elections have that much more impact. term matters a lot, and what you do after the election matters too.”