Today, Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, alongside a coalition of voting rights groups, announced more than 6,000 CPS students and over 3,500 17-year-olds in suburban Cook County were registered as part of the first annual Chicago Democracy Week (2/3/14-2/7/14) – leading to a record voter turnout in the March Primary among young voters.
The registration totals are part of a report released today, “Voting Early and Often: An Evaluation of Chicago Democracy Week 2014,” the culmination of a week-long effort to expand voter registration among younger voters led by Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, the Cook County Clerk, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, Inc., Chicago Votes, Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, Mikva Challenge, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Rock the Vote, and the League of Women Voters of Chicago. The report also details lessons learned for other communities interested in conducting a similar voting drive.
While Chicago Democracy Week’s principal aim was to register 17-year olds to vote, the report finds that the turnout of those who registered surpassed that of 19-45 year old voters for the first time in history. The turnout of CPS students at the March Primary was 12.0%. This is slightly higher than the average Chicago turnout of 11.9%, breaking a decades long trend of young voters (18-25 year olds) turning out at around half the rate of all other voters.
“This Report shows that when civic groups combine their efforts with that of election authorities and public school administrators, we can close the registration and turnout gap between young people and all other voters. I feel a real sense of accomplishment that we managed to work together so well and achieve such fantastic results,” stated Ruth Greenwood, Voting Rights Fellow with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.
Langdon D. Neal, Chairman of the Chicago Board of Elections, said, “Even though we saw low turnout rates at this election, it was remarkable that the turnout rates of 17- and 18-year-olds were higher than the turnout rates among voters in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The new voters were more likely than many of their parents to participate.” On Wednesday, May 7 at 10:00 a.m., 69 W Washington St, Chicago IL, 60602, Eighth Floor Conference Room, the Chicago Board of Elections will convene a press conference, featuring representatives from the groups involved, to discuss results and next steps.
“I think we were so successful because we pulled together groups that know their audience and could target voter registration activities directly at young people engaging in the election process for the first time.” said Nisan Chavkin, Executive Director of Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago.