Low Voter Turnout Gives Rahm a Meager Mandate | Bleader

Low Voter Turnout Gives Rahm a Meager Mandate

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Last September, the Reader’s Mike Miner reflected with bemusement on calls for a democratic rebirth in Chicago following Mayor Daley’s announced decision not to run again, as if elections had long been outlawed, or the Daleys kept in power by legislative mandate. “If someone says we don't have enough democracy in Chicago,” Miner wrote, “the proper reply is, what exactly are we short of? Do we vote? Yes.”

Well, some of us do. In the municipal elections of 2003 and 2007, turnout was 33 percent. In this year’s extraordinary Daley-less election, it climbed to 42 percent. Rahm Emanuel got 55 percent of that—325,413 votes out of the 588,808 cast. According to the Board of Elections, 1,406,037 residents were registered—so Emanuel won the support of 23 percent of registered voters. The rest of the field combined was backed by 19 percent.

Jim Allen, spokesman for the Board of Elections, estimates that 77 to 80 percent of voting-aged citizens in Chicago are registered. So the population of voting-aged citizens here is probably about 1.7 million. Emanuel won with 19 percent of that.

Chicago isn’t alone in electing candidates with meager “mandates.” Vincent Gray was elected mayor of Washington, D.C., last year with the votes of less than 25 percent of those registered. Michael Bloomberg became mayor of New York in 2009 with the votes of only 13 percent of those registered.

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