Forget what you've heard about rising voter apathy—wait, there's an election in November?—because, in the Chicago area at least, more residents are registering to have a say at the ballot box, a pattern that suggests a higher level of engagement perhaps sparked by Illinois' contentious governor race.
Crain's Chicago Business' Greg Hinz reports a 1.9 percent uptick in Chicago voter registration from four years ago, when Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn battled Republican challenger Bill Brady for Springfield's highest office. The 2014 GOP nominee Bruce Rauner, endorsed by Crain's last week, is running a close campaign to unseat Quinn on a vow to reform state government and bust up the Democrats' dominance. Despite his efforts to undermine the incumbent's firm grip on Windy City proper, the largest voting bloc in Illinois and one that bleeds blue, Rauner stands no chance of stealing a winning chunk of urban votes away from Quinn.
According to Hinz, there's been a registration spike in six Latino-dominated city wards as well as in two wards whose constituents are primarily white. Not so much in the African-American wards whose support is crucial for Quinn. "One wild card," notes Hinz, "is same-day voter registration, which goes into effect for the first time in Illinois on Nov. 4."
State Republicans recoiled when Quinn approved the same-day law in July, slamming the move as a political tactic to entice Democratic voters to the polls.
But Rauner, the wealthy Winnetka investor-turned-rookie political candidate, resonates strongly within the Republican-leaning collar counties like DuPage, where registration is up 588,000 from 559,000 circa 2010. Lake County, another GOP-heavy bloc, has seen a minor boost while numbers for the Cook County 'burbs—which skew more Quinn than Rauner—are also on the rise.
Quinn and Rauner, meanwhile, are neck and neck in an increasingly competitive, expensive and outright nasty showdown that pits an unpopular governor against a shiny new upstart whose platform—"I'm a Reformer, And Most Importantly, I'm Not Pat Quinn"—is undermined by a series of PR gaffes including his confession that he once supported wiping out the minimum wage entirely. At the moment, Quinn leads Rauner by several percentage points in the polls, but as we've seen during this ever-evolving toss-up of a race, which previously favored Team Rauner before Team Quinn launched a full-scale media blitz last month, anything can happen in the span of a week or two, let alone a few days.