Votes are still being counted in the days after Election Day as both the presidential race in key battleground states and some smaller races in Illinois remain too close to call.
Here are the latest updates in Illinois:
Hundreds Take to Streets of Chicago as Presidential Election Results Remain Uncertain
As President Donald Trump’s legal team prepares a series of lawsuits in key battleground states after Tuesday’s election, hundreds of protesters gathered in Chicago on Wednesday night to call for a full counting of the ballots in the race.
Made up of several different groups, the protesters were unified behind a simple message: let every vote count.
“Although there are so many feelings, we are pretty clear on how we’re going to act: shut these streets down, and make sure that every vote is counted,” Kobi Guillory of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression said.
“We are absolutely here to ensure the integrity of our democracy,” Troy Gaston, marching along with other Black Lives Matter supporters, said.
The protests began in Daley Plaza on Wednesday night, and marchers made their way over to Michigan Avenue, up to Wacker Drive, back to Clark and then back to the plaza as they made their voices heard.
Chicago police were there every step of the way, keeping marchers on the designated route in what was ultimately a mostly peaceful march.
“I’m out here to support the true vote. It’s not so much for me of being one party or the other. We just need the best candidate,” Demetrius Bonner of the Housing Resource Network said. “Right now I’m just hoping for transparency in government.”
The march comes as Trump threatens legal action in several states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia. NBC News has projected that Democratic nominee Joe Biden will win the state of Michigan, a key pickup as he tries to limit Trump to one term in office.
The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Georgia on Wednesday, demanding that a judge order election officials to follow laws on storing and counting absentee ballots.
“We know that Trump is not going to go easily,” Guillory said. “He’s been there a while.”
Biden has repeatedly called for every vote to be counted in the race.
“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare the winner of this election. It’s the voters’ place,” Biden said. “We feel good about where we are. We believe we are on track to win this election.”
Illinois' Top Doctor Asks Poll Workers, Voters Get Tested for COVID-19
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike suggested Wednesday that poll workers, voters and others who participated in the election throughout the state be tested for the coronavirus.
"I’d also like to encourage people who recently participated in recent campaign rallies, worked in polling places, stood in line to vote where they couldn’t maintain social distance, participated in any protests, or any other recent events: please get tested," Ezike said. "Wait approximately one week after the high risk exposure."
If people in Illinois believe they have been exposed to the virus, Ezike asked that they quarantine from others before being tested as the state is already into the second wave of the pandemic with cases increasing daily.
She asked that even people who test negative for COVID-19 following a week of exposure to "be careful" as many develop symptoms up to two weeks after encountering the virus.
Illinois' average number of deaths per day and hospitalizations have roughly doubled in the last month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
During his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday, Pritzker said numbers for hospitalizations and positivity rates continue to rise across the state's 11 regions, which are now all under heightened mitigations amid what's been called a "second surge" of the virus.
"The virus is spreading, and every region of the state is suffering from its insidious, invisible contagion," Pritzker said. "Make no mistake: this pandemic isn't over, not by a long shot."
14th District Race Between Underwood, Oberweis Too Close to Call
Republican challenger Jim Oberweis is declaring victory in his race to unseat 14th District Rep. Lauren Underwood, but the Underwood campaign is not conceding defeat, saying that too many outstanding votes remain to make a determination in the race.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Oberweis said that “it appears” he has beaten Underwood in the race. His campaign says it made the declaration after consulting with county clerks throughout the 14th District.
“This race has been an uphill battle, to say the least,” he said. “Despite all of the money that she spent, we prevailed. I want to personally thank everyone who helped my campaign and who went out and voted for me.”
Underwood’s campaign disputed the Oberweis declaration of victory, saying that they remain confident that Underwood will be reelected for a second term.
“Jim Oberweis doesn’t get to call this election: the voters do,” Underwood spokeswoman Andra Belknap said. “There are thousands of votes yet to be counted. We appreciate every voter who made their voice heard, and our county clerks and election officials must count every ballot in as expeditious and transparent a manner as is possible. Based on publicly available data, we remain confident that once ballots are counted, this race will reflect that the voters have reelected Congresswoman Lauren Underwood.”
According to NBC News, Underwood trailed Oberweis by 1,238 votes with 89% of precincts reporting. NBC News has not made a projection in the race, likely in part because of the number of ballots still out - thousands, according to local election officials. Mail ballots postmarked by Election Day can be counted under Illinois law if they arrive at the local election authority within two weeks after Nov. 3.
Underwood is seeking a second term in Congress after unseating incumbent Randy Hultgren in the 2018 race. She ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, while Oberweis bested a field of seven Republican contenders to secure the party’s nomination in March.
Oberweis, a state senator from Illinois’ 25th District, has a long history of running for office in the state. He was a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2002 and 2004, and also ran for governor in 2006. He won the Republican nomination for the Senate seat in 2014, but was defeated by Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin.
Oberweis has served in the state senate since 2013, and opted to run for a congressional seat instead of standing for reelection this fall.
Pritzker Warns Path Forward Could be ‘Painful' After Income Tax Proposal Rejected
After suffering a political defeat as Illinois “Fair Tax Amendment” was rejected by voters on Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker laid out some of the “painful” steps the state may have to take in order to move forward from that loss.
Pritzker, a vocal and financial backer of the measure that would have allowed the state to institute higher tax rates on taxpayers with higher incomes, spoke to the media Wednesday in Chicago and criticized opponents of the bill who he had used disinformation to help sink the measure.
“There will be cuts, and they will be painful,” he said. “And the worst thing is the same billionaires who lied about the fair tax are more than happy to hurt our public schools, shake the foundations of our cities, and to diminish our state, maybe because they think it won’t hurt them.”
While Pritzker has hinted in the past that across-the-board tax increases would potentially be on the horizon if the “Fair Tax Amendment” failed, he focused instead on the structural change that will be necessary in the months and years ahead.
“What I’m focused on is the long-term fiscal health of the state,” he said. “We have to address this. It’s the most important thing we can do, to stabilize our state. We’re going to have to look at deep and painful cuts because of what the billionaires and special interests have done to our state.”
Pritzker pointed to several moves that his administration has made to try to make in-roads in paying down the state’s debt, including the repayment of more than $1 billion in late bills over his first year in office. His office also reduced late payment penalties by $850 million a year.
“We’ve been reducing waste and inefficiency from day one, because the problem of the state’s finances has to be addressed from every angle,” he said.
While Pritzker said that budget cuts aren’t his preferred method of dealing with the state’s budget woes, he said that the removal of a progressive tax from his list of options could end up leading in that direction.
He did, however, say that education cuts are very unlikely, citing the high return on investment that education funding provides, and the fact that Illinois already has one of the lowest percentages of state investment in education in the country.
“Illinois has had the lowest percentage of state funding for education in the nation, increasing the gaps between schools in low-wealth, high poverty areas and those with abundant resources. And local school districts raised property taxes to make up for the state’s failure,” he said.
Pritzker also said that he will not consider any measures that go after the income of retirees, saying that he stands squarely against any such move.
“I’m going to continue to fight for working families,” Pritzker said. “I’m going to make sure that we pay the pensions that are owed to people, and I will stand four-square against any tax on retirement.”
In the end, Pritzker says that decisions on the state’s path forward will have to come “expeditiously,” saying that he remains optimistic about the future of the state’s finances, even after the defeat of one of his signature initiatives.
“We will get through all of this together, and when you feel yourself losing a bit of hope, I’m always here to offer you some of mine,” Pritzker said. “I know the strong character of this state and its people, and for two centuries, it’s something we’ve always been able to count on, through thick and thin.”
Rep. Sean Casten Wins Race for Illinois' 6th District Race as Jeanne Ives Concedes
Rep. Sean Casten, the first Democrat to represent Illinois' 6th Congressional District in decades, won a second term after his Republican opponent conceded the race early Wednesday.
Casten led Republican Jeanne Ives by five points, 52% to 47%, which equated to more than 17,000 votes, with 99% of precincts reporting early Wednesday. Libertarian Bill Redpath won 2% of the vote, results showed.
Casten declared victory early Wednesday, winning reelection in the district he first turned blue in 2018.
“Tonight, the voters of the 6th District sent a resounding message. They voted for science and facts. They voted for decency, acceptance, and love, and rejected bigotry and racism. They said that they believe we should all have high-quality, affordable health care. They acknowledged the climate crisis and decided we must do something about it," Casten said in a statement.
“To the voters -- you have given me a tremendous amount of responsibility, and I can only hope to live up to your expectations. Over the next two years, you can expect more town halls and accessibility from my office. In Congress, I will continue to advocate for our District on COVID relief, health care, combating climate change and job creation," he added. "More than anything else, thank you to all who participated in this election.”
Hours later, Ives conceded defeat in a lengthy statement in which she again took aim at Democrats in Illinois and said she found "solace" in the rejection of the state's proposal to change to a graduated income tax system.
"For me, this campaign is over," Ives' statement reads, in part.
"In this election, we ran against - not only Sean Casten - but members of both parties’ establishments, the media and other institutions that have protected entrenched interests for decades," she added. "My team fought hard, but in the end the power of the opposition was too great. It is somewhat unclear to me what lies ahead for Illinoisans.
Illinois' Graduated Income Tax Proposal Rejected, AP Projects
The proposal on every ballot in Illinois to change the state’s income tax from a flat rate to a graduated tax was rejected, the Associated Press projected early Wednesday, as the vote trailed by a 10-point margin and the committee pushing for its passage conceded defeat.
Votes against the proposal were leading 55% to 45%, more than 2.7 million votes against to more than 2.2 million votes in favor, with 98% of precincts reporting statewide, election results showed at around 8:45 a.m. early Wednesday.
The committee pushing for the proposal conceded defeat early Wednesday morning, as the vote trailed by a 10-point margin.
“We are undoubtedly disappointed with this result but are proud of the millions of Illinoisans who cast their ballots in support of tax fairness in this election," Vote Yes For Fairness Chairman Quentin Fulks said in a statement.
“Illinois is in a massive budget crisis due to years of a tax system that has protected millionaires and billionaires at the expense of our working families, a crisis that was only made worse by the Coronavirus pandemic," he continued. "Republican legislators and their billionaire allies who brought us the dysfunction and pain of the Rauner years continue to stand in the way of common sense solutions, choosing instead to play partisan games and deceive the working families of our state. Now lawmakers must address a multi-billion dollar budget gap without the ability to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share. Fair Tax opponents must answer for whatever comes next.”
Fulks' statement was his second made as results continued to roll in, after first urging patience in counting outstanding votes on Tuesday night.
The measure was a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution, which can be ratified one of two ways: if three-fifths (or 60%) of people voting on the amendment approve it, or if a simple majority (50% plus one) of all voters, including those who skip the question on their ballots, approve it.
Illinois election officials said Tuesday night that they estimated somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 remained unreturned by Election Day and could continue to arrive within the two-week window in which they can legally be counted, potentially impacting the outcome of some races.
Those outstanding ballots and the uncertainty surrounding the results led supporters of the amendment to declare that the outcome of the statewide vote wouldn’t be known until all ballots are counted. Still, the margin by which “No” votes were ahead led opponents of the measure to declare victory Tuesday night.
"When all the votes are counted, we believe there will be more 'no' votes than 'yes' votes, and that will be a win for small business owners, middle-class families, family farmers, retirees, and large employers,” Lissa Druss, spokeswoman for the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment, said in a statement. “In this election, Illinois voters sent a resounding message that with an $8 billion deficit and two massive tax hikes in the last ten years, we cannot trust Springfield Politicians with another tax hike."
Even before Election Day, Illinois election officials noted this race in particular as one for which results would likely not be definitively known on election night due to the formula for its approval.
Chicago's Mayor Says She's 'Heartened' City Remains Calm, Urges Diligence
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot released a statement Wednesday morning saying while she is "heartened that our city remains calm and peaceful," it is "crucial for us as a city to be focused and diligent."
"We wake this morning with little clarity in the presidential race, but with some important known facts. While counting of some ballots in Chicago continues, we know thanks to the collaboration and support of our city's departments and agencies, and the Chicago Board of Elections, a near-historic number of Chicagoans rose to meet this moment in an unprecedented year by casting their ballots, volunteering at polling places, and making their collective voice heard," Lightfoot said in a statement. "We have much to be proud of as a city."
NBC News projected that former Vice President Joe Biden will capture Illinois' 20 electoral votes, holding down a key Democratic stronghold in the 2020 race. It was also projected that Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin will retain his seat, fending off Republican Mark Curran and independent candidate Dr. Willie Wilson.
Election officials in several key states are still working to count ballots in the presidential race between President Donald Trump and Biden, and the process could take several days in some locations.
In states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, votes are still being tabulated late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, with some mail-in and absentee ballots still waiting to be counted in those states.
Other key states, including Georgia and Arizona, remain too close to call, according to NBC News projections.
"As we anxiously await the outcome of the presidential and other races, I am heartened that our city remains calm and peaceful," Lightfoot said. "This election has generated a lot of emotions on all sides. There will be a lot of chatter until the election results are verified, but it is crucial for us as a city to be focused and diligent to be sure, but also calm and peaceful. Let's channel our emotions into a productive expression of our First Amendment rights. No matter the outcome, we will get through this by remaining together, as neighbors who need each other and love our great city and country.”