Tuesday, January 18, 2011



The Chicago Sun-Times’ page 1 headline today (i.e., Tuesday 1/18/11) blared “More Voters in Every Ward.” Overall voter registration is up big (4.3%) citywide in anticipation of the upcoming Chicago mayoral election. A close look at the numbers indicates that the news is good for Rahm Emanuel, temporarily good for Carol Moseley Braun, and bad for Gery Chico. A closer look at the numbers indicates that it hard to draw any conclusions. An especially insightful look indicates that the figures bode well for Mr. Emanuel but are inconsequential for the February preliminary. Why?

First, registration increased 5.2% in black wards, 3.7% in white wards, and 3.2% in Hispanic wards, bringing total registration in the city to 43% black, 35% white, and 21% Hispanic. This bodes very well for Carol Moseley Braun, the only remaining serious black candidate in the race.

Second, registration is one thing, but turnout is the important thing, and turnout tends to be very volatile. If one were to project the February vote based on current registration numbers and November, 2010 turnout (2010 featured a surprisingly big turnout for an off-year election, especially among blacks, but 2011 turnout will almost definitely be larger across the board, but perhaps especially among black voters.), the vote would break down to 43% black, 39% white, and 18% Hispanic. This reduces the salubriousness of the news for Ms. Braun’s chances, but not by much.

Third, if traditional ethnic voting patterns hold (And they didn’t in November, 2010, when Toni Preckwinckle carried plenty of white wards over a relatively strong, or at least a serious, white candidate to win the nomination, and effectively, the election, for Cook County Board President.), this bodes very well for Ms. Braun’s defeating Gery Chico for second place in the February run-off, earning her a place in the April final against Rahm Emanuel.

Fourth, though predicting anything in this election at this juncture is precarious, it looks like, in a one on one match-up against Rahm Emanuel, Carol Moseley Braun loses and probably loses big. (See, inter alia, my 1/1/11 post FROM RAHM EMANUEL TO DANNY DAVIS AND ????: “THANKS, BUDDY; I OWE YOU ONE.” and my 12/23/10 post “…AH, MERCY, MERCY ME, AH, THINGS AREN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE…”)


Such conclusions are rendered less meaningful because of the methodology of the Chicago Board of Elections as reported in the Sun-Times. These breakdowns are not of the vote of black, white, and Hispanic voters but of black, white, and Hispanic wards. Most wards in this city are not overwhelmingly of one race, especially on the west and north sides. They are, rather, either a patchwork quilt of different ethnicities or, more likely, dominated by one racial group with a sizable minority of at least one other racial group. But, for purposes of the Board of Elections analysis, an entire ward is assigned to its predominant racial/ethnic group, which explains, by the way, the absence of, say, Asian voters in the above breakdowns. So the breakdowns cited above, and the resultant conclusions, are dicey. And, as I said above, traditional racial/ethnic voting patterns have been breaking down, albeit slightly, for years and, given the at least heretofore laughable performance of candidate Braun, may break down further this election.

One more interesting note…

What we could call the “Rahm wards” all of which are white and only one (okay, maybe two; the 2nd ward, a gentrifying ward bursting with old warehouses that are now yuppie town homes, is, geographically, on the south side) of which is on the south side, had very large increases in registration. The 19th, a Rahm ward, at least by virtue of the inclination of those who control the ward politically, had the largest registration increase of any ward of the city, at 8.2%, and that in a ward in which registration is always among the highest in town. In those ward in which Mr. Emanuel’s core constituency (what I would call the “I know everything because I just moved to town from the North Shore” voters) tends to congregate, registration increases were also substantial, to wit: 7% in the 2nd, 6% in the 42nd, 4.8% in the 43rd, 5.4% in the 44th, 6.7% in the 46th, etc. This, of course, bodes well for Mr. Emanuel but says nothing, or at least very little, about the crucial first round race.

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