With Gov. Pat Quinn clinging to a slim lead, it's worth taking a look at how he built it, what groups of voters turned out to support him, and what Bill Brady's options are going forward.
What a difference a ground game makes.
In an election cycle that for historical and economic reasons made Republicans overwhelming favorites to take back Illinois' governor's mansion for the first time in years, a massive get out the vote effort leading up to Election Day and on November 2 appears to have made a big difference for the Democratic gubernatorial ticket of Gov. Pat Quinn and Shelia Simon.
Buoying Quinn and Simon's likely successful election bid was strong support from minority voters. Statewide, African-Americans and Latinos cast an estimated 90 percent and 62 percent of their ballots, respectively, for the Democratic candidates according to a CNN exit poll. Such margins were the reason why pro-Quinn labor unions and community organizations strategically targeted black and Latino voters this fall -- time and again, we heard during the campaign season that organizers would seek out voters in Democratic strongholds on the South and West Sides of Chicago, and in places like the South Suburbs of Cook County.
The GOTV push was carefully planned. First came a messaging campaign in the run-up to November 2 that cast the election in national terms, telling city and Cook County residents that supporting Quinn and other Democrats meant supporting President Barack Obama. The enduring appeal of Obama amongst voters in these precincts wasn't hard to find. Felicia Daniels, for example, told Progress Illinois on Tuesday she voted for U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias because, "For one, my president loves him."
On Election Day itself, Democratic-affiliated organizations deployed a massive number of people on the streets to canvass and door-knock. The SEIU State Council (which sponsors this website) said the number of staffers and member-volunteers they were putting on the street to find Democratic voters in Chicago and Cook County would run to some 3,200 people -- more than triple their team in 2006. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights targeted 133,000 voters with 1,000 volunteers.
To try to understand the impact of the GOTV effort, Progress Illinois added up and compared the total number of registered voters this year and in 2006 and the number of votes cast for the Democratic gubernatorial ticket this year and in '06 in 17 Chicago wards with big numbers of black voters. The Chicago Board of Elections makes the data available on their website.
Check out the results in this spreadsheet:
To sum up the findings: while the universe of registered voters in black-dominated wards declined substantially between 2006 and 2010, the number of voters who came out to vote for the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in these wards last Tuesday barely shrunk at all. There were nearly 8 percent fewer registered voters to reach out to in these 17 wards this year, but the number of ballots submitted for the Democratic gubernatorial ticket dropped less than one percent. It's a remarkable number, and one that becomes even more pronounced if you take out the 29th Ward, which is the one area that shows (somewhat inexplicably, given the overall trend) an increase in the pool of registered voters between this year and '06. Without the 29th, the registered voter drop was 9.1 percent, and the ballots cast dropped by -.8 percent.
And look at what happened in wards like Chicago's 3rd. The number of registered voters there dropped by 6.4 percent over a four-year period, according to the board of elections, but more people voted for Quinn-Simon than Blagojevich-Quinn (9,902 vs. 9,249).
GOTV efforts were still able to turn out huge numbers of black voters despite a smaller population of registered voters. In a close election like Tuesday's, this effort can't be overlooked.
Female Voters Swing For Quinn
Four years ago, female voters in Illinois outnumbered male voters in every age group during the midterm election cycle. This year, women turned out in higher numbers yet again. And Gov. Quinn can thank that population for his victory as well.
On Tuesday, exit polls showed that the Democrat beat Bill Brady by five points among women. Men swung for the Republican by just four points. And in the crucial Chicago suburbs, Brady underperformed compared to the other Republican on the top of the ballot, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk. Via Capitol Fax:
What accounts for that disparity, which seems to have made the difference in an insanely close race? Brady spent virtually no time pressing flesh in the Collar Counties, where he was largely unknown before the race began. The repeated efforts to highlight Brady's social conservatism by the Quinn campaign and its progressive allies certainly played a role, too. Television ads, mailers, and phone calls from pro-choice groups like Personal PAC convinced independent women that Brady was out of step with Illinois values on issues like abortion rights and stem cell research. For that, they should be applauded.
The Party's Base Comes Through
In addition to women and minorities, union members, people who earn lower- to middle-income salaries, and young voters -- the other core constituencies that comprise the Democratic Party's base -- came through big for Quinn. CNN's exit poll of more than 2,400 respondents from across the state bears out this reality.
Quinn and Simon won younger voters handily; the spread was 22 points for 18-24 year olds; 23 points for 25-29 year olds; and 10 points for 30-39 year olds. Similar margins were seen among people who earned $50,000 or less annually. And Quinn's 59-45 victory among voters who have a union member in their household far outpaced Brady's tepid 49-45 win among households that do not.
Regions, Populations, And Votes
In the wake of Quinn's showing Tuesday -- and the outpouring of support he found in Chicago and Cook County, especially -- some of the post-election talk has honed in on an interlocking set of targets for conservative residents living downstate: Chicago, Cook County, and the voters who live within those two jurisdictions.
Thus, a caller on a radio show in Champaign wishes Chicago would secede from the state, Edward McClellend reports today. And the editorial board at The Southern newspaper in Carbondale makes an even wilder suggestion -- that Illinois adopt a federal-style electoral college. From an editorial entitled, "We must break Chicago’s choke hold on state politics":
What Tuesday's results illustrate is the weakness of the winner-takes-all popular vote, especially in a contest involving a state with a single, massive urban area. Illinois has 102 counties and Brady won all but four counties - Jackson, where Quinn's running mate Sheila Simon pulled big numbers, and the Democratic strongholds of Alexander County, St. Clair County and Cook County, which includes Chicago. But the popular vote Wednesday had Quinn with 1,712,234 and Brady with 1,699,159, according to the Associated Press.
Fortunately for the majority of Illinois voters, elections are not decided on how the state county map gets colored in on November 3: they're decided on who gets the most votes. The Southern conveniently ignores the voters in the counties Brady won who voted for Quinn and overlooks the legion of problems with the federal Electoral College. It's a strange editorial with an unmistakable sour-grapes feel.
Illinois, by the way, has already adopted a National Popular Vote law, which stipulates that all of the state's electoral votes should be allotted to the presidential candidate that wins the popular vote nationally.
The Recount Threat
Trailing by roughly 20,000 votes, Brady says he will not concede the race until all of the outstanding absentee and provisional ballots are tallied. The AP, which just called the race for Quinn, estimates that 50,000 are still out there; to catch Quinn, Brady's name would need to show up on roughly 70 percent of those ballots. A tall order, for sure. A Tribune analysis finds that Brady is unlikely to emerge victorious.
If he somehow gains ground this week, Brady could appeal for a discovery recount. (To be eligible, the candidate who is behind must receive votes equal to 95 percent of the votes received by the winner.) The State Journal-Register explains what that means:
The apparent loser then can petition local election authorities to have one-quarter of their precincts recounted. He chooses which precincts to recount. In most cases, county clerks oversee those jurisdictions, but some cities, such as Chicago, have their own election commissions.
If the discovery recount shows that Brady votes were under-counted in the precincts chosen to study, he can petition the circuit court or the Illinois Supreme Court to hold a statewide recount. It's noteworthy that Illinois has never held a full statewide recount in modern history. In 1982, the Supreme Court denied Democrat Adlai Stevenson III the chance to challenge the results of his race against Gov. James Thompson, even though he trailed by just 5,074 votes out of more than 3.6 million cast. (This year, about 3.4 million Illinoisans participated.)
The recount process is not cheap, a concern Brady should take seriously before moving forward with an appeal. Investigating votes in all 11,209 precincts, for a price of $50 per precinct, could cost over $500,000. It's also crucial to have a governor firmly in place as the state moves forward to solve its dire budget crisis. "Every day of leadership uncertainty," the State Journal-Register writes in an editorial today, "is a day longer that the state can’t do meaningfully work toward addressing its financial problems."
The last thing the General Assembly needs is a needless political distraction.