The CBOE has updated their election results twice already to include valid late arriving vote by mail votes. They will update on March 10th with final numbers that will include any further late arriving VBM votes and any provisional votes that are deemed valid. There will be some more votes added in before these numbers are finalized and certified but not a huge amount. Here's where the totals stand as of now:


Using round numbers there were about 475K total votes in this race and just shy of 100,000 people (99,035) voted for one of the candidates that did not qualify for the runoff. Those votes are in play and we discussed them in detail the other day.

Let's assume for a second that everyone who voted for each of Emanuel and Garcia last month votes again in April and for the same candidate. With that assumption Emanuel starts with a lead of almost 58K votes (57,518) that Garcia needs to make up, and obviously the most fertile ground to find those votes is among the people who voted for either Wilson/Fioretti/Walls because they've already turned out for an election once this year. Now let's also assume that of the voters who voted for either Wilson, Fioretti or Walls back in February at least some of them decide to stay home in April because they just don't favor either candidate in the runoff. There comes a point where if that number gets sufficiently large then Emanuel doesn't have to win over any new voters to win the runoff, he could theoretically win the runoff by holding his existing coalition among an April electorate that has shrunk from the February electorate.

Garcia has to keep these Wilson/Fioretti/Walls voters in the April electorate and voting. If 42% of them don't turn out in April then Garcia can't win without expanding the electorate in other places. Even if the Wilson/Fioretti/Walls voters lean moderately to heavily anti-incumbent he has to win them over and turn them out, of those roughly 100K votes he has to get the first 58K and then do no worse than split the rest.

Other Options - Expand the Electorate

The next and possibly more difficult option is to try to expand the electorate. As we saw last week, historically runoff elections in Chicago have lower turnout than the February election. This is our first runoff election for Mayor in the modern era so perhaps this runoff will behave differently. If Garcia is going to be able to expand the electorate in his favor these are his most likely avenues:

  1. Natural Growth - there is a plausible theory that now that the Mayor's aura of invincibility has been pierced voters who are displeased with his first administration but did not think their vote would matter will turn out this time around. There will also likely be a subset of voters who favor the Mayor who have the same rationale, however given the anti-incumbent mood displayed by the voters in February overall this likely favors Garcia. It's impossible to know how large this natural growth could be and it will mostly be organic and not necessarily as a result of any particular GOTV effort by the campaigns.

  2. Hispanic Voters - Garcia's strongest subset in February was with Hispanic voters so his best chance to expand the electorate in his favor for April is in this subgroup. Garcia faces two difficult challenges here: 1) Hispanics are generally registered at lower rates than other subgroups and turnout can often be mixed at best. Of the 10 wards with the fewest ballots cast in February 9 were majority Hispanic population wards. Of the 12 wards with the poorest turnout percentage in February 6 were majority Hispanic population wards, 5 were majority AA wards and the remaining one had no majority. 2) While Garcia won a majority of Hispanic voters in February Emanuel held his own (56-34). Even if Garcia wins the support of all of the Hispanics who voted for Wilson/Fioretti/Walls in February he's still only netting 32 votes for every 100 new people he turns out. If he was going to try to make up his entire 58K deficit here he'd have to turn out 181K new Hispanic voters, only 73K people living in majority Hispanic census tracts turned out in February. The math here isn't easy.

  3. Disaffected Liberals - According to Politico "Democracy for America and, are partnering on field efforts, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, is raising money for the cash-starved Garcia". Looking at the breakdown of February's results by demographic data if large numbers of disaffected liberals exist it's not easy to identify them based on demographic profiles. Emanuel won majority white census tracts outright and the higher an area's income and/or the higher the percentage of college graduates the more likely that area was to support Emanuel. Perhaps these experienced groups have found the formula for identifying and motivating like minded individuals. More likely Garcia's best hope for finding and turning out disaffected liberals is that DFA and MoveOn have lengthy member lists in the area and they can put an effective member to member contact program together.

  4. Organized Labor - it's clear that the Chicago Teacher's Union will go all out for Garcia, CTU appears to have taken a big step forward this cycle, and CPS is on Spring Break the week of the April election so they'll have a tremendous opportunity to activate their members on election day. After that though, it gets a bit murky. The politically experienced Service Employees International Union was neutral in the primary and while they've publicly said they would reevaluate getting involved in the runoff they also seem to be going through some internal division within the union and it's hard to predict what they will do. Then you get to the building trades and while the conventional wisdom is that the unions are generally united in opposing Emanuel many people forget that many of the building trades actually endorsed Emanuel. In February Emanuel did poorest with the less affluent voters and the unions are historically the best at member to member communications so the opportunity for Garcia here is real, it's just not clear that organized labor is as united in opposing Emanuel as people seem to think they are.

  5. Others - Wilson did best with AA voters, almost 80% of his votes came from areas with AA majority population, so an endorsement from him could be a boost but somehow his endorsement has taken on a life of its own and become a bit of a side show. Fioretti appeared to do best with blue collar white voters, among voters living in majority white precincts with a median household income between $60,000 - $100,000 Fioretti's support was twice as strong where less than 40% of the population had a bachelor's degree than the areas where more than 40% had a bachelor's degree. If Fioretti can be of any help to Garcia it's likely among this group.

Garcia has momentum on his side and a mathematically plausible path to victory, but the math for him isn't easy. Looking at his February numbers there is no one subgroup where he had sufficient support to have a clear focus, if he is going to emerge victorious it seems like it will require a multifaceted approach. If the size of the runoff electorate in April shrinks as has historically been the case then Emanuel moves closer to victory simply by holding his current coalition together. Garcia has to find the raw votes to make up that difference, either by winning over the supporters of other candidates or turning out new voters. Early voting starts two weeks from Monday, the clock is ticking.

Because we have shapefiles (GIS data files) of the Chicago precinct boundaries from Tuesday's 2015 Mayoral election we can use software to match them up against any other data set where we have shapefiles, including 2010 US census data. I ran an intersect on the precinct boundary shapefiles against the 2010 census data by census tract (and then prorated the vote totals based on the percentage of land area overlap) so that I could merge data on median household income, education as measured by the percentage of people in a census tract that had a bachelor's degree or higher and also a much more granular estimation of race than the tracker from the other night. It yielded some interesting results.

View the Results

Download the Results (Spreadsheet)


Early voting starts in a little over three weeks (March 23rd) so these two candidates have very little time to persuade voters. It will be interesting to see which of these two campaigns tries to win over new voters vs. which ones just focus in increasing turnout among the subsets of voters where they have the most support.

It probably won't come as a surprise for you to learn that the Mayor did better with affluent voters than the less affluent voters but it did surprise me to learn that a small majority (50.3%) of voters on Tuesday live in census tracts where the median household income is less than $60,000. The Mayor only won that group 41-34 as opposed to the people who live in census tracts with median household income above $60,000 where the Mayor's margin was greater at 50-33. There is a pretty clear financial divide for these two candidates that may prove beneficial for GOTV strategies.

In census tracts with a majority Hispanic population Garcia won an outright victory 56-34, however only 15% of Tuesdays voters live in those areas. On the other hand Emanuel won a clear victory in census tracts with a majority white population 53-32 and 37% of Tuesday's voters live in those areas. Even though Garcia has a natural base with Hispanic voters that base is smaller than the voting population of other ethnic groups.

34% of the voters who live in majority African American census tracts voted for one of the candidates that didn't qualify for the runoff, these voters are now coveted by both candidates. Among the voters who live in majority African American census tracts Emanuel's support is roughly the same regardless of household income. For example the AA voters who live in census tracts with a median HH income between $0 - $20,000 supported him at 42.5% while the AA voters with median HH income between $80,000 - $100,000 supported him at 41.5%. On Tuesday Emanuel won the support of more AA voters than any other candidate and whatever message it was that won him that support seemed to work the same regardless of the voter's income.

On the other hand, Garcia's support among the voters who live in majority AA census tracts did vary by income and he had greater support among the more affluent African American voters than the less affluent. For example the AA voters who live in census tracts with a median HH income between $20,000 - $40,000 supported him at 21% while the AA voters with median HH income between $100,000 - $120,000 supported him at 36%. Garcia has two challenges here 1) he earned a greater rate of support among affluent AA voters on Tuesday but the vast majority of the AA voters on Tuesday came from the less affluent census tracts (1/3 of the AA voters came from tracts with median HH income less than $40,000 and 82% less than $60,000) so he'll have to tailor his persuasive message toward the less affluent if he wants to improve his support rate, and 2) he has a difficult needle to thread in that his best GOTV strategy for the city overall is to focus on voters in < $60,000 census tracts while his best performing AA subsets are the more affluent ones.

Voters in majority white census tracts tended to be somewhat more affluent than their counterparts in majority AA or majority Hispanic census tracts. For example only 7% of voters who live in majority white census tracts had a median HH income under $60,000 whereas 82% of voters who lived in either of AA or Hispanic majority census tracts had a median HH income under $60,000. So voters in majority white census tracts tend towards the higher income brackets compared to their counterparts in AA or Hispanic majority tracts and there is a clear correlation between an increase in income bracket and an increase in support for the Mayor but there is still a ray of hope for Garcia among middle class white voters. A good majority of white voters (59%) live in census tracts with a median HH income between $60,000 - $100,000 and of all of the subsets of white voters this is where Emanuel did the worst, falling just below 50%. Also, even though Fioretti didn't win much support anywhere this was the subset of voters where he was the strongest. Garcia has the opportunity to make some inroads with middle class white voters.

When I ran the numbers I included data about education as measured by the percentage of people in each census tract that had a bachelor's degree or higher but I haven't included this data in this analysis mostly because those numbers track pretty closely to the income bracket numbers. Higher income areas tend to have a higher percentage of college educated people so the conclusions tend to mirror one another.

Election day is a little more than 5 weeks away and in a little more than 3 weeks early voters can start casting ballots again so there isn't much time to turn out voters and there is even less time to win over new ones. For either campaign to emerge successful they're going to have to study these data subsets and find their winning formula.

Total Votes - Participation Rate:

There has been a lot of attention given to the fact that turnout last night was significantly lower than four years ago, which is true, however that year was a bit of an outlier and this year's numbers track pretty closely to the 2007 and 2003 Chicago Municipal elections:

Reg VotersTot Mayor VotersParticipation Rate
Feb 20031,436,286 463,145 32.25%
Feb 20071,407,979 456,765 32.44%
Feb 20111,406,037 590,357 41.99%
Feb 20151,421,430 466,177 32.80%

With some valid late arriving vote by mail ballots left to be counted the total votes in the Mayor's race last night currently stands at about 466K (very close to my projection last night) and a participation rate of a little under 33% on about 1.4 million registered voters. You can see that over the last four cycles the number of citywide registered voters has stayed within a band of 30,000 so it's held pretty flat. The total vote last night held remarkably similar to 2003 and 2007. In other words last night's election was nothing special, wasn't a big turnout like 2011 and wasn't a horrible one either, it just tracked well with other recent elections with an incumbent Mayor.

Projecting April's Turnout:

Today I saw two schools of thought on the likely turnout for the April runoff: 1) the number of total voters in the Mayor's race in the April runoff will be lower because a) there aren't competitive aldermanic elections in every ward, b) some supporters of the candidates that did not qualify for the runoff will not vote and c) election fatigue. The other school of thought is 2) the number of total voters in the Mayor's race in the April runoff will actually be higher than February because a) with a slimmed down field the campaign coverage will be more focused and more voters will be paying attention, b) the Mayor's veil of invincibility has been pierced leading some disaffected voters to participate, c) the weather will be better and d) with fewer other races to distract the campaigns or dilute the campaign staffs more people will be working to drive up turnout.

I still tend to believe that the overall number of voters in the Mayor's race in April will be lower than the total from February but I find the conversation interesting. We don't have much historical data to work with, there hasn't been a runoff in the Mayor's race since the current format was put in place in 1999. However we can look at all of the aldermanic elections that went to runoff in the last three cycles and see how regularly the April runoffs featured more total voters than the February elections:

YearWardFeb TotalApr TotalDiffDiff %
2011615,045 10,114 (4,931)-32.8%
2011157,059 3,550 (3,509)-49.7%
2011166,116 3,654 (2,462)-40.3%
2011179,900 6,063 (3,837)-38.8%
2011207,467 4,518 (2,949)-39.5%
2011249,255 5,490 (3,765)-40.7%
2011258,823 7,291 (1,532)-17.4%
20113614,052 10,074 (3,978)-28.3%
20113812,256 7,880 (4,376)-35.7%
20114120,109 14,458 (5,651)-28.1%
20114314,267 9,644 (4,623)-32.4%
20114515,879 12,136 (3,743)-23.6%
20114613,906 9,967 (3,939)-28.3%
20115011,487 9,698 (1,789)-15.6%
2011Combined165,621 114,537 (51,084)-30.8%
2007211,103 9,399 (1,704)-15.3%
200738,087 8,369 282 3.5%
2007156,046 4,641 (1,405)-23.2%
2007166,104 5,278 (826)-13.5%
20071813,228 8,970 (4,258)-32.2%
20072114,096 10,563 (3,533)-25.1%
2007248,421 6,416 (2,005)-23.8%
2007328,107 8,237 130 1.6%
2007356,561 6,543 (18)-0.3%
2007439,307 8,321 (986)-10.6%
2007497,441 7,803 362 4.9%
20075010,489 11,325 836 8.0%
2007Combined108,990 95,865 (13,125)-12.0%
200316,930 9,007 2,077 30.0%
2003612,686 9,354 (3,332)-26.3%
2003156,048 4,450 (1,598)-26.4%
20032113,451 11,902 (1,549)-11.5%
2003Combined39,115 34,713 (4,402)-11.3%

Looking at the table above the general expectation for an aldermanic runoff is the April election will have fewer total votes than the February election, in fact the average for the 14 aldermanic runoffs of 2011 was about 31% lower (12% lower on average in 2007 and 11% lower on average in 2003). There are a few exceptions of course but it's clear that April just has a lower participation rate.

However I would caution these totals are just for downballot aldermanic races. A runoff in a Mayor's race is likely to lead most newscasts over the next 6 weeks. You'll also see plenty of broadcast TV ads and heavy mail and likely phone calls or door knocks. The level of attention given to this runoff will be very different from these past aldermanic runoffs. No matter what your preferred theory is for turnout in April I don't think the data rules out any possibility.

Late last night the Chicago Board of Elections made their ward by ward (and precinct by precinct) numbers available and I was able to plug those numbers into the tracker I would have used had those numbers been available earlier in the night. Most of these insights are derived from a quick glance at the tracker.

2015 Chicago's Mayor's Race Election Night Tracker

A few thoughts:

  • In majority AA wards (by census) Emanuel (42%), Garcia (26%), Wilson (22%), Walls (6%), Fioretti (5%). In wards with an AA majority 32% of the vote went to candidates that will not be in the runoff so it will be interesting to see where these voters fall.
  • In majority Hispanic wards (by census) Garcia (52%), Emanuel (37%), Fioretti (7%), Wilson (3%), Walls (1%). Only 11% of this vote went to candidates not in the runoff.
  • In wards with a white majority (by census) Emanuel (52%), Garcia (34%), Fioretti (10%), Wilson (4%), Walls (1%). 15% of this vote went to candidates not in the runoff.
  • In wards with no majority (by census) Emanuel (49%), Garcia (35%), Fioretti (9%), Wilson (5%), Walls (1%). 15% of this vote went to candidates not in the runoff.
  • Reminder, the "2011" numbers in my tracker were reconfigured to match the current ward maps. In the majority AA wards the 2015 numbers for Emanuel were about 12-20 points lower than 2011.
  • It was harder to draw conclusions about the Hispanic majority wards, some showed Emanuel improvement (10/13/14/31), others big drop (22/25/33/35).
  • In only a very few wards did Emanuel improve over his 2011 numbers but somehow in the 13th ward he did almost 15 points better. Interesting.
  • It appears that 19 aldermanic races are headed to an April runoff (2, 7, 10, 11, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 24, 29, 31, 33, 36, 37, 41, 43, 45, 46). So while the overall numbers were Emanuel (45%), Garcia (34%), Wilson (11%), Fioretti (7%), Walls (3%), if my math is correct in just the 19 wards that are headed to aldermanic runoff the numbers were Emanuel (46%), Garcia (31%), Wilson (12%), Fioretti (8%), Walls (3%). The Mayor did slightly better than average in these 19 wards but there is also 23% of the vote in these 19 wards that went to candidates that won't be in the runoff so it will be interesting to see where those voters fall. Obviously these 19 wards are likely to have higher turnout in April than the wards without Aldermanic elections.

Here are some of the big questions going into April:

  1. Of the 21% of voters who voted for one of the candidates who didn't qualify for the runoff, where does their support go? These voters are largest among wards that have an AA majority by census so you'll likely see a significant focus of the campaign in those communities between now and April.
  2. Can Garcia expand on his 52% of the vote in Hispanic majority wards and can the Mayor continue to make inroads among Hispanic voters despite having a Hispanic candidate in the race?
  3. What happens in the 19 wards with Aldermanic runoffs and how does that affect the Mayor's race?

Now we have a six week sprint until April.

UPDATE: our election night tracker for the Chicago's Mayor's race is now live:

2015 Chicago's Mayor's Race Election Night Tracker

End of update.

The Chicago municipal elections are on Tuesday for all 50 aldermen/women, the Mayor, the City Clerk and the City Treasurer.

Since the last Chicago municipal election in 2011 the City of Chicago has redrawn their ward boundaries. The Mayor's race is not expected to be close on Tuesday but it is expected that Mayor Emanuel will come very close to reaching or exceeding the 50% + 1 threshold needed to avoid a runoff. I thought it would make sense to take the precinct level data from the 2011 Mayoral election and reconfigure those vote totals based on the new ward map. Some of the wards are similar to the 2011 map but some, such as the 2nd ward, are very different. I think it will be interesting to see how the Mayor's 2015 numbers compare to his 2011 numbers and this will give a better apples to apples comparison.

Download 2011 Chicago Mayor by 2015 Ward Boundaries

I took the shapefiles for the 2011 citywide precincts and dumped that into some GIS software and ran an "Intersect" against the shapefiles for the current ward boundaries. I then used the percent of land area to assign a percentage to precincts that covered multiple wards. This is not exact for reasons I won't bore you with but it's pretty close. If you download the link above you'll see a summary sheet with the data I just described as well as a worksheet that shows the precinct by precinct analysis and also there's a sheet that shows the percentage of voters by race in each ward from census data. You may find any or all of that useful.

State of the Mayor's Race

Both the City Clerk's race and the City Treasurer's race feature unopposed incumbents so the only actual citywide race is the Mayor's race.

Thanks to the team at Aldertrack, this cycle's indispensable daily must-read for all Chicago related election news, who teamed up with pollster Ogden & Fry for a regular tracking poll we have this graphic below showing how little traction the challengers have made.

Prior to the start of early voting the Mayor was polling in the low 40's, undecided was in 2nd place in the low 20's and the challengers were either in the teens or single digits. Since the first week of February when early voting started they have stopped offering undecided as an option and the Mayor is hovering right around 50% with his challengers well behind. Unless something really unexpected happens Emanuel will finish first on Tuesday and the main point of interest will be to see if he can beat the 50% + 1 threshold needed to avoid a runoff. (Emanuel avoided a runoff in 2011 with 55.28% of the vote)

I am going to spend some time over the weekend looking at building a dashboard for the Mayor's race. If I can make it work the way I hope I may turn it on for election night on Tuesday. I'm mainly interested in seeing in real time how the Mayor is doing against his runoff threshold and how each ward compares to his 2011 numbers. If I can build a straightforward easy to read dashboard that auto-updates every 2 minutes or so I'll make it live and distribute the link. Keep an eye on the Illinois Election Data Twitter account @ILElectionData and I'll try to let you know by Monday if I think I can do something for Tuesday night. (Why is there always a Hawks game on election night?)

Chicago Board of Elections Website

The Chicago Board of Elections already has live links to their 2015 Municipal election results in their Election Results section. If you go to their website then click on Election Results you'll see that in the dropdown below you can select "2015 Municipal General - 2/24/15" as one of the options. From there you can select whatever race you want. None of the race pages have numbers yet, obviously, but it's nice that the links are live and available so that you know where you can find the results when they're available.

A note about Aldertrack: this group of political hobbyists have spent the last few months amassing a wealth of political information and making it widely available for little or no cost. You can buy their data-rich Racing Form for $10 (it's actually currently free until election day but if you find it useful you should give them some money). Also you can sign up to receive a free daily email that includes original reporting, polling, reports from the field and a news roundup for all the Chicago races. I highly recommend.

At at time when news organizations are downsizing both Aldertrack and the also terrific Illinois Observer have been very welcome additions to the Illinois political news scene. I am not affiliated with either organization.

Today outgoing Governor Pat Quinn signed two election bills into law, 1) HB4576, which passed both chambers during a special session on Thursday, that will allow for a special election for certain constitutional offices under certain circumstances and will result in a special election in 2016 for Comptroller to fill the remaining term of the late Judy Baar Topinka, and 2) SB172 the omnibus elections bill that was passed during veto session which has received the most attention for making same day registration permanent but also makes changes to vote by mail, early voting, college campus voting, vote counting procedures and election administrative changes.

For anyone who followed the lengthy vote counting process in the very close 2014 State Treasurer's race SB172 includes some changes that will make more vote counting information available for any similar situations in the future. Here is a rundown for both bills.


This bill is pretty straightforward, this about covers it:

Provides that if there are more than 28 months remaining in the term of office for Secretary of State, State Comptroller, Treasurer or Attorney General, the appointed office holder shall serve until the next general election, at which time the office shall be filled by special election for the remainder of the term. Provides for nominations for special elections to fill the unexpired term of a vacant office. Effective immediately.



Voter Registration

  • Same Day Registration (Grace Period Registration): extends grace period registration up to and including election day. Election authorities in counties with a population of greater than 100,000 or election authorities that have electronic poll books must offer in-precinct same day registration. Election authorities in counties with a population less than 100,000 that do not have electronic poll books may opt out of in-precinct same day registration but they must offer same day registration at their main office and must include a location in any municipality where 20% or more of the county's residents reside.

  • ERIC Registration: beginning in 2016 requires participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) system.

  • National Change of Address check: requires the SBE to perform a check of the Postal Service's National Change of Address database to find voters who have moved. Voters who have changed their address will be automatically re-registered at their new address after being given an opportunity to opt out

  • State Websites: requires all executive department websites to link to the statewide online voter registration.

  • Phone App: requires the SBE to develop a phone app for voter registration.

  • Government Offices: requires that when a person is interacting with a state agency online or at their government office they can easily register to vote or update their registration.



  • Provisional Voting: a voter attempting same day registration on election day that does not have the necessary documentation may still vote provisionally. That voter will then have 7 days to submit the proper documentation to their election authority.

  • Early Voting: early voting now runs up to and including the day before election day. During the final week of early voting the locations must be open until 7pm on weekdays. Saturdays are 9am - noon and Sundays are 10am - 4pm. Permanent sites must offer grace period registration. Each election authority must provide the SBE a list of early voting locations and hours, the SBE will make this info available on their website.

  • Vote By Mail: ballots must now be postmarked no later than election day (it used to be the day before), ballots can be delivered by any carrier, ballots may be returned in person to the election authority by any authorized person (previously only family members) and election authorities must print the amount of postage required on the return envelope.

  • Campus Voting: early voting and grace period registration must be available in the student union Wed - Fri from 10am to 5pm before a general primary or general election but not during a consolidated election.


Vote Counting

  • Ballot Processing: election authorities may process ballots up to 15 days prior to election day but they may not count/tabulate the ballots until after the polls close.

  • Uncounted Ballot Disclosure: after election day each election authority must report to the SBE the number of uncounted ballots and the SBE must make this info available on their website.

  • Announcements: election authorities must provide at least 24 hours advance notice the date, time and location where they will analyze, cast or count any centrally located ballots and they must send email notification to anyone requesting notification.

  • Wrong Precinct: codifies current SBE rules regarding counting ballots cast in the wrong precinct.


Election Administration

  • Eliminates "Absentee Voting": removes any references to "absentee voting" which is now obsolete and has been replaced by early voting and vote by mail.

  • Polling Places: requires election authorities to disclose polling places that designate their entire property as campaign free.

  • Petitions: clarifies the SBE's jurisdiction over petitions for the General Assembly when the districts are not entirely within Cook County, sets the signature requirements for Chicago aldermen (473 signatures) and eliminates the requirement that statewide advisory referendum petitions must be segregated by election jurisdiction.

  • Election Judges: in Cook County the township and ward committeemen now have final approval of partisan election judges (used to be the county chairman).

  • "I Voted" Stickers: if an election authority distributes "I Voted" stickers must make them available to all voters.

  • Pollwatchers: cleaned up language on pollwatchers watching the casting of vote by mail ballots in a precinct on election day.

As I mentioned before starting with the 2014 General Election the Illinois State Board of Elections has made precinct-level vote totals available for all races. The State Board offers flat files in csv format for each of the state's election authorities. I have assembled that data, formatted it and created some interesting tools.

First, to find this new data click on "ANALYSIS" and then "Precinct Level Election Results". Here is a rundown of what is available:

  • Download Raw/Formatted Data - Click here to download 1) all of the raw data aggregated from the State Board of Elections (flat file); 2) a statewide csv file of all races formatted for use (flat file); and 3) a sample Microsoft Access database that uses the full statewide formatted file plus has some query examples that demonstrate how the data can be used.

  • View Race by Precinct - Click here to select a race and view the election results by precinct. Every race except for the statwides can be viewed by precinct, the statewide races are too large to load on the screen. Instead there is an option to download each of the statwide races that can be opened in any spreadsheet program.

  • View Race by County - Click here to select a race and view the election results by county. This code aggregates the precinct-level database into county by county results. If you are concerned that there is an error in the precinct-level database file you can use this tool to view the county by county totals and compare them to the certified election results and check for discrepancies.

  • View Statewide Race by Districts (Simple Method) - Click here to select a statewide race and view the election results by districts (congressional, state senate or state rep). This process uses the simple method, which has to do with instances where more than one district are represented in a precinct. Using the simple method the entire precinct data is used for any precinct that is in part or in whole in each district. More complicated methods may be available in the future.

Also if you want to see Statewide Race by Districts in table format we have that too:

The statewide file is large, it's about 1.8 million records so some pages may take a few seconds to load. Also, when looking at statewide races by district (congressional, state senate, state rep) currently the only method available is the Simple Method which includes any precinct that is in whole or in part in the district. I hope to be able to add a more complex apportionment method where precincts that include more than one district have those votes apportioned to one district or another. For reasons I won't get into you can't guarantee that one method is more accurate than the other but the apportionment method is generally favored. If you'd like to develop your own methodology for evaluating the data I have made the raw and formatted data available for easy download so you can use it as you wish. In the meantime I wanted to publish what I had here so I could move on to finishing up the maps and then get the 2014 monthly campaign budgets done later this month.

Feel free to contact me with any questions at Scott.Kennedy (at) or on Twitter at @ILElectionData.


UPDATE: 12/1 (5:00pm)

All of the spreadsheets in the Analysis section for the statewide races have been updated with the 2014 certified general election totals. Also, I have changed the way they are displayed and made it easier for you to take this info in widget format by adding "Copy this Widget" code for each, just copy and paste that into your own websites for your own use. For example here is the data by region - traditional collars that appeared here on the front page often leading up to the election:

End of update.

Tonight the Illinois State Board of Elections will meet to certify the election results. Once those results are made available I'll start work on updating the site with all of the data from the 2014 general election. I should have all of the election profiles and the analysis spreadsheets (updated) updated pretty quickly, probably sometime this week.

The maps will probably take a little longer. I only add new maps about every two years and it seems like each time I do Google has added some new security protocol to the batch update process and their documentation is rarely helpful. I will get them done as soon as I can.

Another fun new feature of this election could come soon as well:

10 ILCS 5/22-6 (b)
Beginning with the November 2014 general election and every primary, consolidated, general, and special election thereafter, within 52 days after each election, the State Board of Elections shall publish the precinct-by-precinct vote totals on its website and make them available in a downloadable form.

That should happen no later than around Christmas. I have no idea how the State Board plans to implement this but hopefully it should allow us to parse the data in all sorts of ways including a) seeing how the Governor's race candidates (or other races) performed by congressional, state house and state senate district and b) seeing how the statewide referenda fared in each district, etc. I have zero interest in replicating any functionality offered by the State Board of Elections but if all they offer is raw data and it is in some sort of format that will allow us to convert it into a usable database I'll probably spend some time building some functionality so that it can be parsed in various useful ways.

And then come January the final campaign finance reports for this election cycle will be filed for both federal and state candidates. Once those reports are filed I'll get to work on updating the budgets for each race. That is a lot of work and takes a long time so it won't happen right away.

Also now that the results are certified I may write some articles looking at the results in depth. There are a number of topics that interest me including following up on pre-election articles about the downstate vote, the Chicago vote (especially the African American vote in the Govenror's race), the death of the Cook County suburbs as a reliable bellwether, the stronger than expected performance of some of the challengers in the down ballot statewide races, that razor thin Treasurer's race, the competitive congressionals and turnout and vote share. I may not get to all of those topics or I may find that there is nothing new to add beyond what's already apparent on the surface but for now those are the topics that interest me and seem likely to offer greater insights once looked at more closely.

With at least 89 of the 110 election authorities showing totals that are considered final (mostly just small counties remaining) and the race having been conceded I have stopped updating the tracker.

It's impossible to say exactly how many votes were counted after election night but we can make some approximations. I didn't find the county by county totals for the Treasurer's race until sometime on the afternoon of Wednesday the 5th, and there are still some counties that haven't made final updates in our tracker but if you look at the list of updates I tracked there were at least 132,000 new votes over what was reported by the AP on election night. The tracker currently lists roughly 3.527 million total votes in this race so roughly about 4% of the total vote was reported after election night.

Despite the fact that this race was decided by the razor thin margin of just a few thousand votes (roughly one quarter of one percent) this late counted vote had a decided Democratic lean. Frerichs won this late counted vote 56%-40%-4%, a 16 point spread and in doing so gained an advantage of roughly 21,000 raw votes (at current count).

This leads to two questions:

  1. Why did this happen?
  2. What assumptions can we make for future elections?

Let's look at these questions by type of vote. First, why were there so many votes that were not counted until after election day?

  • Early vote and mail vote that arrived by election day - in the past these were often counted prior to 7pm on election night and then these numbers were the first posted results you would see while waiting for all the precincts to be counted. However it was determined that the law does not allow for the clerks to count these votes before 7pm on election night and the Attorney General sent a notice to all of the election authorities to offer specific guidance on the issue. Many election authorities were still able to get these votes counted and included in their election night totals but not all. A number of election authorities were still counting these votes and adding them to their publicly available totals for a few days after the election. The General Assembly may want to review the law and consider if there are options that would allow the clerks to count these votes in advance if doing so would not harm election integrity. If the law was changed to allow all of these votes to be counted at a convenient time for the clerks then we may not see a repeat of this in the future, if not these votes may not be counted on election night depending on each election authority's size, capacity and execution.
  • Election day votes - by the end of election night 109 of the 110 election authorities had 100% of their precincts reporting, only Chicago had 23 of its 2,069 precincts left to report so the vast majority of these votes were included in the election night totals. We haven't had major problems counting election day ballots since 2006 so for future elections I would expect these vote totals will be available on election night.
  • Late arriving mail votes - any ballot with a post mark before election day can be legally valid and counted if it arrives at the election authority up to 14 days after the election. Most election authorities counted the mail ballots they had as of election day and included them in their election night totals. However for the ballots that arrived after election day most did not provide regular updates of these votes (a few did, but not many). Instead most election authorities waited until the 18th and just posted one large update with these new totals. This will likely be true for future elections.
  • Same day registration votes - this was the first year for same day registration, unregistered voters were allowed to register and vote on election day at select locations. The law that authorized same day registration expired so unless it is reauthorized it will not be part of future elections. These votes were included in the provisional ballot totals and were not added to the publicly available vote totals until two weeks after the election.
  • Provisional ballots - there will always be provisional ballots and those votes won't be included in the totals until they have been properly evaluated on a case by case basis. These votes weren't included in the publicly available totals until the 18th. There was some anecdotal evidence that in Chicago many voters who had recently registered to vote had to vote provisional because they weren't listed on the voter rolls at the polling places on election day. If that was the case there may have been many more provisional ballots than normal (and some valid voters may have been disenfranchised), better clerical work could reduce this number for future elections.

Since vote by mail appears here to stay there will always be late arriving vote by mail ballots, although the amount will vary from election to election. Also, if same day registration is renewed then those votes will likely continue to be counted after election night. On the other hand you could potentially reduce the number of votes that need to be counted after election night by giving the clerks the power to count early vote and on time Vote By Mail votes somewhat earlier in the day on election day and better clerical work could reduce the number of traditional provisional ballots that need to be reviewed. So while there will continue to be votes that need to be counted after election night any number of changes could make that universe smaller than what we had in this election.

The next question has to do with partisan advantage. According to our non-exhaustive list of vote total changes since election night these votes had a 16 point advantage for Democrat Mike Frerichs (56%-40%-4%) despite the fact that this race overall had a razor thin margin of roughly one quarter of one percent. Can we expect the Democrats to have the same advantage among late arriving votes in future elections? Again, let's look at this question by each type of vote:

  • Late arriving mail votes - there are two questions to consider here: 1) is there a partisan skew for procrastinators? and 2) what are the mechanics of executing a Vote By Mail program that could impact the timing of vote arrival? On the first question I don't think there is a partisan skew to procrastination. Perhaps polling or an academic study will show that there is but until we see some supporting data I don't think it's reasonable to assume that one party's voters will wait until the last minute while the other party's voters will mail their ballots in well ahead of time. The more likely factor in the timing of mail ballot arrival has to do with the mechanics of the VBM programs. I was told that both the Democratic and Republican parties in Illinois has significant VBM programs this year to make it as easy as can be for their most likely supporters to vote by mail. I was also told anecdotally that in this election the Republicans started their program before the Democrats. Both parties likely reached out to their most likely supporters who requested a VBM ballot to remind them to mail in their ballot. Obviously the earlier and more frequent those reminders took place likely affected when some of these ballots were returned. If both parties followed essentially the same process but one started earlier than the other then it would affect the timing of VBM ballot arrival. There is no guarantee that in the next election the timing of these efforts will remain the same or even that one or both parties will put the same amount of effort into Vote By Mail. For example in the next election one party could decide to focus on early voting instead of VBM. It's in every party/candidate's best interest to have their voters get their ballots in as early as possible so neither party/candidate necessarily wants to have a large number of their voters among the late arriving mail ballots. There is no guarantee that the timing of the VBM ballot arrival in this election will be the same in future elections and since the timing is likely to be the most significant determining factor of partisan skew there is no guarantee that either party will have a significant advantage in the late arriving VBM ballots in future elections.
  • Same day registration votes - if same day registration is renewed and used again in future elections I think this will still vary by some factors unique to each election authority. If same day registration is limited to select locations how convenient are those locations? Next, and probably more important, in that jurisdiction which parties/candidates have workers or volunteers actively working the precincts and how well versed are those workers/volunteers on the rules of same day registration and are they actively encouraging unregistered voters to participate? Unregistered potential voters are likely the least motivated/informed voters in the electorate. Of all of the people who could potentially know that same day registration exists I would expect the subset of people who couldn't find the time to register in advance the least likely to be aware of same day registration. I wouldn't expect a groundswell of organic same day registration voters, that universe will probably be defined by the efforts of county clerks to make it available and campaign/party precinct workers to take advantage of it. Having said all of that this universe will probably still lean Democratic since the demographics of unregistered voters leans Democratic as well: the young, the frequent movers, ethnic minorities and urban moreso than suburban moreso than rural. Still, a well organized suburban Republican effort could outproduce Democratic numbers if the Democrats were not similarly well organized.
  • Provisional ballots - people who have lived at the same address for many years (and have been registered to vote there) don't vote provisional. Provisional ballots skew towards the recently newly registered and/or the voters who have to frequently re-register. Like the list above this universe has demographics more likely to skew towards the Democratic party.

Some of the late arriving ballots will skew towards the Democrats, specifically the traditional provisional ballots and possibly the same day registration ballots (but not certainly) while the late arriving mail ballots could skew towards either party depending on the get out the vote programs of each party and their candidates. There is no guarantee that future elections will see late counted votes skewing towards the Democrats by 16 points as they apparently did in this Treasurer's race according to the best numbers we have available.

If a future election is as close as this one was at the end of election night we're just going to have to study it in detail again and see what characteristics that are unique to that election will have an impact on the final result.

Illinois Treasurer's Race Tracker

UPDATE: 11/18 (10:00pm)

Final update for the night:

The Chicago numbers came in just before 9pm and as expected it boosted Frerichs lead by over 6,000 votes. I did a complete check of all the election authorities again and the only other update was Marion County. On my tracker I still have not yet confirmed the final totals for 50 of the state's 110 election authorities. Of that number 14 don't have websites and the other 36 just haven't updated their websites yet with final totals.

The current margin is Frerichs by 9,439 votes.

Reminder: I will be traveling all day tomorrow for work and won't be near a computer probably at all so I will have no new updates for you. I gave Rich Miller and his intern access to the Google Doc that powers the tracker so they may make updates or they may not. Either way I'll find some time on Thursday to update what I can.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/18 (6:30pm)

Here's where things stand right now. I have checked every publicly available source of election results since 5pm. As of this writing Frerichs has a lead of 3,259 votes but 52 of the state's 110 election authorities have not yet published what is clearly a final update. You can see which counties updated here.

The City of Chicago still has not updated, which is expected to produce a notable margin for Frerichs. The Cook County suburbs did make an update of 8,314 votes and Frerichs net gain there was 2,263 votes.

The most surprising news of the day came in the collar counties. In the 5 traditional collar counties overall Cross beat Frerichs 57%-38%. I expected that the updates in the 5 collar counties would give Cross the net gains he would need to keep this race close. That was not the case.

We haven't had a public update in McHenry County since 11/5 and did not get one so far today. DuPage had a large public update on 11/5 as well, both producing large margins for Cross. However in today's updates it was Frerichs who came out with a net gain in Lake and Will (472 and 376 votes respectively) while Cross' net gain today in DuPage was only 48 votes. The Kane County part outside of Aurora updated last night Cross gained 215 votes while the Aurora election authority update today gave a net gain to Frerichs of 235 votes. In these most recent collar county updates it was Frerichs who had a net gain, when I was expecting a large net gain for Tom Cross.

In the overall statewide vote the 5 collar counties made up 25% of the vote in this race, while the Cook County suburbs made up 19% of the total vote. Cross needed gains in the collar counties to blunt the gains by Frerichs in Cook County and what is expected in Chicago. Unless McHenry comes in with a very large update, that didn't happen.

This race has had many surprising developments. Now Tom Cross is going to need to find votes in surprising places to make up the current deficit.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/18 (10:00am)

I will update what I can when I can today. Keep track of which counties updated here.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/17 (9:00pm)

Here is what to expect for tomorrow and Wednesday. I expect the clerks will finalize and update the vote totals in each election authority tomorrow. The clerks will still have to complete the canvass and the totals won't yet be certified but at least we won't be expecting any further updates unless errors are found.

Technically the clerks have to wait to make sure no additional ballots come in the mail tomorrow so the updates are more likely to come later in the day. I will take a late lunch and check for updates during my lunch and then again after work.

On Wednesday I have to travel for work and will not be able to check for updates at all. I have given Rich Miller and his intern access to the Google Doc that is keeping track of these totals so they can make updates if needed.

Also, if you need to get updates faster anyone can copy/paste the data at the bottom of my tracker where it is listed by election authority and perform their own checks.

To make it easier to quickly see which totals are final I have them color coded. All the numbers for each election authority in blue are not yet final, the numbers in black are the numbers that are expected to be final.

For previous updates I've written a little blurb after each one explaining the update. Here is that history in table format. Since almost all 110 election authorities are expected to have an update in the next day or two I probably won't write up each one, I am going to try to keep this table up to date and just reference the table.

End of Update.

UPDATE: 11/17 (6:30pm)

First, thank you to Macoupin County Clerk Pete Duncan for emailing me his final county totals, that was very helpful. Second, if you look at the very bottom of the tracker where the vote totals by election authority are listed you'll notice that many figures are in blue. Anything in blue is not yet confirmed as final, anything in black is assumed to be final pending the canvassing and certification.

I called the 5 counties today that I promised on Friday I would. I also rechecked all the election authorities tonight, here are 12 updates:

  • DeWitt County - there were a total of 5 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 4 votes. These should be their final totals.
  • Jasper County - there were a total of 4 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 4 votes. These should be their final totals.
  • Marshall County - there were a total of 10 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 4 votes. These should be their final totals.
  • Pope County - there were a total of 3 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 1 vote. These should be their final totals.
  • Richland County - there were a total of 29 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 9 votes. These should be their final totals.
  • Macoupin County - there were a total of 79 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and it was a push, the margin remains exactly the same. These should be their final totals.
  • Bond County - there were a total of 2 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 2 votes. These should be their final totals.
  • Morgan County - there were a total of 123 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 41 votes. These should be their final totals.
  • Pike County - there were a total of 4 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 3 votes. These should be their final totals.
  • Fayette County - there were a total of 26 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 11 votes. These should be their final totals.
  • Kane (only, not including Aurora) - there were a total of 382 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Cross gained 215 votes. I'm not sure if these are their final totals.
  • Vermilion (only, not including Danville) - there were a total of 81 new votes over what was previously publicly reported and Frerichs gained 1 vote. These should be their final totals.

The current margin is now Tom Cross by 674 votes.

End of Update.

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