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Illinois Primary 2010: Chicago's Voter Turnout A Record Low

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While officials knew on Feb. 2 that voter turnout in Illinois was not good, the final numbers in Chicago ended up being the worst ever for a non-presidential primary.

The Chicago News Cooperative reports that, though voter turnout in Chicago was better than the numbers statewide, it was still nothing to be proud of:

There are nearly 1,444,000 registered voters in Chicago. Turnout for the Feb. 2 primary was 27.2 percent, the worst for a non-presidential primary, but apparently better than the still-unofficial statewide figure. The previous city low was 29.14 percent in 1958, when dinner table chatter included mention of Mayor Richard J. Daley, Gov. William Stratton, Senators Paul Douglas and Everett M. Dirksen, as well as George Halas, Donna Reed, Milton Berle and Nellie Fox.

On election night, Chicago Election Board Chairman Langdon D. Neal said he predicted the city's turnout was somewhere between 25 and 30 percent:

"It's very, very unfortunate," Neal said of Tuesday's poor turnout. "[It was] a very quiet day from start to finish."

The Cooperative reports:

For sure, many factors are at play. There was the midwinter election date; the uninspiring nature of some key campaigns; negative advertising; post-presidential-year election fatigue; and what some academics see as the turnout disincentive of registration deadlines. More people would vote, the thinking goes, if people could register on Election Day.

Cook County Clerk David Orr told the Coop that he believes money fueling negative ads is to blame:

"I am a strong believer that money has corrupted democracy well before the recent Supreme Court decision" striking down limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions, Mr. Orr said.

In general, the United States does not come out to vote as much as other developed countries, the Coop reports.

Of 24 developed democracies in Europe, North America, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Israel, the U.S. is number 23 in terms of turnout.