Post-Election analysis shows voting shift

April 20, 2004
Press Release

The March presidential primary was an election of firsts for suburban Cook County voters, as party voting trends continued to shift and Democrats turned out in record numbers, Cook County Clerk David Orr announced.

A post-election analysis recently completed by Orr’s office shows that the March 2004 presidential primary marked the highest percentage of Democratic ballots ever recorded in a suburban Cook County primary election.

Also, voters in a record number of townships took Democratic ballots for a presidential primary – 27 townships out of 30.

The post-election report shows that the Clerk’s office received its election returns faster than anywhere in the state on election night. More than 50 percent of Cook County’s 2,423 suburban precincts had transmitted their results to the Clerk’s downtown office 20 minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m.

“Our analysis provides a snapshot of Election Day,” Orr said of the March 16 primary. “It provides historical data reflecting changes in voting behavior and turnout trends among suburban Cook County voters that we hope communities and individual residents find useful.”

While suburban Cook County commonly sees significant Democratic turnout for presidential elections, the turnout for the presidential primaries historically is less than that for gubernatorial primaries.

However, with 279,538 suburban ballots cast in March, the presidential primary showed 302 more Democratic ballots cast than in the gubernatorial primary of 2002. This marked the first such increase in primary Democratic ballots since 1992.

Democrats in the presidential primary of 2000 cast only 148,370 ballots, down from the 182,250 ballots cast in the gubernatorial race of 1998.

“We typically see wide swings in turnout for Democratic and Republican voters during primaries,” Orr said. “Most of the peaks come during gubernatorial elections, when voters may feel they’re participating in races that affect their local communities a bit more."

Setting the stage for the primary was a spike in voter registration, which was the highest ever before a presidential primary in suburban Cook County. About 1.3 million residents had registered to vote by the February deadline.

Included among the elections in which voters cast ballots were: primaries for president of the United States and a hotly contested U.S. Senate seat; races for the Illinois General Assembly; Cook County offices; judge vacancies; and various local races and ballot questions.