Voter turnout low for local alderman races

By Carl Pickerill

Local incumbents rolled to victories in city elections Tuesday. Following the lead of Chicago mayor Richard Daley, who won the majority in every ward in the city, local aldermen coasted to easy victories. The closest race in the Hyde Park-Kenwood-Woodlawn vicinity took place in the 20th ward, where incumbent Arenda Troutman staved off challenger Howard Kenner, winning 56 percent of the vote and avoiding an April 1 runoff.

A candidate winning over 50 percent of the vote is named the outright winner, while the failure to achieve this percentage results in a runoff between the top two candidates.

Election officials in the 20th Ward reported a low turnout. At the polling station at Wadsworth Elementary school on the 6400- block of University Avenue, 129 people had voted by 5:30 p.m.–considerably lower than the 400 plus total registered to vote in that precinct. Officials said it was not the result of an uninformed public but rather a case of bad weather.

The low voter turnout did nothing, however, to dampen the spirits of Troutman’s office.

“It’s an exciting time to reinvigorate the ward with new and affordable housing,” said one official in the 20th Ward, which covers most of Woodlawn, including the Law School and Burton-Judson Residence Hall. “We’ll be seeing lots of different people here who can live together peacefully.”

The University’s fifth ward, which runs from Hyde Park along the lake to South Shore, will once again be under the guidance of incumbent Leslie Hairston, who garnered 72 percent of the vote, 60 percentage points more than her nearest opponent, Oscar Worrill.

Republican election official Diane Fouch, who patrolled the polling place at Shoreland Residence Hall, also reported “a low turnout of individuals, who probably knew the outcome of the mayoral race, so didn’t bother to show up.”

Fouch described the candidates in the fifth ward as being too similar to each other in their views and cited this as a potential reason for low voter turnout.

“They didn’t make themselves visible enough in the community,” she said. “All they do is feed off each others’ thoughts and decisions.”

By 4 p.m. Tuesday, only 104 people had voted in an area that boasted 600 registered voters.

The pattern was much the same in the fourth ward, as a small fraction of all registered voters turned out to vote incumbent Toni Preckwinkle into office. Preckwinkle accrued 68 percent of the total vote against her lone opponent, Norman Bolden.

“I am grateful for the support,” Preckwinkle said. “I did better this year than I have in any previous election rounds, and I would just like to say that I am grateful of the strong support that this ward showed me.”

Preckwinkle was not surprised at the low turnout. She noted that “lack of a contest at the top of the ticket” probably drove voters away.

University undergraduate Luke Shepard was one of 96 voters who had turned out to vote at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club by 5:00 p.m. Tuesday. The precinct had 364 registered voters.

“I had heard a lot of good things about Preckwinkle and thought I would exercise my civic duty,” Shepard said, also noting that he supported Daley for the good work he has done for the city.

Daley continued his string of mayoral victories, grabbing 79 percent of the vote. His closest challenger, Paul Jakes gained 14 percemt of the vote.