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Black wards adding more voters, while Hispanic wards lag behind

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

In just 10 weeks since the November midterm elections, every ward in the city showed a jump in the number of registered voters, indicating a high level of interest in the upcoming mayoral contest.

But some places appear to be more interested than others.

Wards in which African Americans are the biggest voting bloc had the largest average increase in registered voters, while Hispanic wards saw the smallest increase.

The average jump among black wards — 5.5 percent — could be good news for the best-known African-American candidate in the race, Carol Moseley Braun, if black voters vote heavily along racial lines.

And the comparatively lower registration increase in Hispanic wards, 3.2 percent, could spell trouble for the two Hispanic candidates, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle.

Wards where whites with no Hispanic heritage are the largest voting bloc showed an average increase of 3.7 percent, just a little higher than Hispanic wards. But one predominantly white ward, the 19th, including the Beverly neighborhood on the Southwest Side, posted the largest jump in the city, 8.2 percent.

Citywide, there was an increase of 4.25 percent in voter registration, with 56,000 additional voters signing up as of lastWednesday. The registration deadline for the upcoming elections is Jan. 25.

“I think it’s safe to say the first open mayoral contest in 64 years contributes to more voter interest,” said Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

When it comes to the percentage of registered voters who actually turn out to vote, white wards topped the list last November, followed by black and Hispanic wards.

But that pattern could easily change.

“Turnout is unique to every single contest,” said Allen. “We’ve anticipated for a long time that there’s going to be a much larger turnout this time than there was four years ago or even last November.”

One reason for the bigger registration increase in black wards could be because, for a time, there were two other well-known black candidates in the race, all of them encouraging their supporters to register. Those two — U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis and state Rep. James Meeks — dropped out. But two lesser-known candidates — Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and William “Dock” Walls — remain in the race.

State Rep. Will Burns (D-Chicago) said that when he visited black churches, he frequently found voter registration cards in the back.

“I think that there have been some efforts by clergy, civil rights groups and community organizations to encourage their constituencies to register to vote because of the importance of this election,” said Burns, who is running for alderman in the 4th Ward.

The petitioning process to get on the mayoral ballot could also have contributed to the increase. Sometimes, if a voter asked to sign a petition is not registered to vote, Burns said, the petitioner would register that person on the spot so they can sign a petition.

Burns’ South Side ward, about 73 percent black, posted the biggest increase in voter registration among predominantly black wards — 7.8 percent. He said that high total could be due in part to a highly contested aldermanic race in which he faces nine opponents.

“I imagine that people running these different campaigns may have encouraged people to register to vote,” said Burns.

Del Valle, meanwhile, has been working with community groups and the Latino media to encourage more people to register to vote. The lower registration growth could be due to the fact that “people in general are very worried, depressed and cynical about politics, and sometimes we wait until the last minute,” said Alejandra Moran, a spokeswoman for del Valle. “But I think we’re going to see more Latinos voting February 22 because this is local, it affects everyone’s life,” she said.

Javier Salas, the morning host on WRTO-AM 1200, said some of the poorer showing in his community is due to the undocumented status of many Latinos, but he said cultural attitudes also come into play.

“People say, ‘We came from a country that has a lot of corruption, and our politicians in Illinois and Chicago have the same corruption.’ That is kind of disappointing. So the attitude is ‘I have a job I’m doing good, I wish it could be better, but my vote doesn’t count,’” said Salas. “We need to change that.”

Voter registration

Largest voting bloc in ward Avg. voter registration change 2010-11 Avg. turnout Nov. 2010 Total registered voters
Black 5.25% 52.21% 601,675
White* 3.74% 57.94% 491,518
Hispanic 3.19% 44.07% 298,372
*Not Hispanic
Largest voting blocs not necessarily majorities. Total registered voters includes all voting blocs in wards.
Sources: Ward Data, Chicago Board of Elections, Nielsen Claritas estimates

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