County reports record low fall-off rate

November 4, 2004
Press Release

The percentage of voters who did not cast a vote for president in Tuesday’s presidential election was the lowest since punch cards were introduced in suburban Cook County 28 years ago, said Cook County Clerk David Orr.

Approximately 1.55 percent of suburban Cook County voters, or 15,765 voters, did not record a vote for president, a 70 percent reduction from the 2000 general election when 5.2 percent, or 49,923 voters, did not record a vote in that race.

The fall-off rate represents the difference between the total number of ballots cast and the total number of votes counted for candidates running for president. The Clerk’s office studies votes cast for president as a means of measuring ballot errors. Most voters intend to vote for a presidential candidate in such elections.

Unofficial vote totals for suburban Cook County show that less than 0.2 percent overvoted, or voted for more than one presidential candidate, and less than 1.4 percent undervoted, or did not record a vote for any candidate in the race. No votes are recorded in races where overvotes or undervotes are detected.

Following the 2000 election, Orr’s office conducted a review of the ballots that revealed most voters intended to vote for a presidential candidate but failed to dislodge chads. That created an undervote, resulting in no vote cast for president.

After the then Republican-controlled Illinois Senate blocked attempts to allow Cook County voters to be alerted to possible ballot errors, the Clerk’s office helped win a legal battle to activate error-detection technology in 2001, significantly reducing the number of ballot errors in each election.

In addition, Orr’s office worked to reduce ballot errors by enhancing its election judge training that focused on smaller class sizes and hands-on instruction of election procedures to better assist voters. The Clerk’s office also launched a voter education campaign designed to make every vote count.


Suburban Cook County Fall-off rates*
*[Unrecorded votes for the top-ticket race compared to total ballots cast]
Election year Election type
(top of ballot)
% Falloff
1976 Presidential 2.0%
1978 Governor 3.5%
1980 President 1.8%
1982 Governor 3.7%
1984 President 2.1%
1986 Governor 3.8%
1988 President 2.2%
1990 Governor 3.4%
1992 President 1.59%
1994 Governor 2.5%
1996 President 1.8%
1998 Governor 3.4%
2000 President 5.2%
2002 Governor 2.56%
2004 President 1.55%**

**Unofficial election results