2022 election had most contested Illinois House races in 2 decades
Illinois’ 2022 general election was the most contested non-presidential election in the past two decades, with 79 contested Statehouse races. Illinois Policy’s Full Slate project helped give voters an extra 32 choices on the ballot.
Illinois’ 2022 general election was the most contested in the past two decades, with 3.8 million Illinoisans voting in 79 competitive House elections.
Voter turnout reached the second-highest level for a gubernatorial general election since 1998. Research shows more competitive elections increase voter participation, with contested races drawing 7% more voters to the polls.
Illinois Policy’s Full Slate initiative succeeded in giving Illinoisans a choice in 30 more House district races and two Senate races by providing prospective candidates from all parties with the tools to run for statewide office.
With roughly half of Illinoisans living in districts that averaged only one major party candidate on the ballot during the past 22 years, more voters had a choice in 2022 elections. Over 900,000 voters had choices that they otherwise might not have without the project.
Full Slate candidate Alper Turan ran for House District 13, which includes the Lincoln Square area of Chicago. Despite being defeated by his Democratic rival, Turan said he’s proud he campaigned and gave voters in his district a choice.
“I teach political science and I always tell my students: ‘Everybody is responsible,’” he said.
Turan was a refugee from Iran, where he said there were no freedoms. He waited years in a refugee camp for an opening to come to the U.S., worked a factory job and pursued his education until he became an adjunct professor at Truman College.
“If you’re living in this district, this city, this state or this country, you have rights and responsibilities,” Turan said. “This responsibility is not just for you, but your kids and your grandkids, your brothers and sisters, and all families. That’s why I decided to run.”
The voter choice initiative helped Turan and 29 other House candidates, plus two Senate candidates, campaign and win their primaries in June to be on the ballot this November. The Chicago Tribune endorsed 10 of those House candidates for office.
Many theories of democracy emphasize voters’ ability to reward or punish elected officials by extending or ending their political careers. If many representatives run unopposed and voter participation isn’t widespread, government accountability can be undermined.
Choice in elections also matters because evidence suggests uncontested and lightly contested elections tend to skew policy in favor of powerful special-interest groups at the expense of everyone else. This is because low voter participation makes legislators more susceptible to the influence of lobbyists rather than prioritizing service to constituents.
“I wasn’t expecting to win, but at least I helped other voices be heard,” Turan said. “If no one is challenging these ideas, voters are only gonna hear what the majority has to say.”
Ballot choice has been lower in Chicago, which during the past decade included 33 of Illinois’ 57 historically uncontested House districts. Those uncompetitive districts were home to more than twice the share of Black and Hispanic residents and reported lower levels of educational attainment, income and job opportunities for voters.
Making Illinois’ Statehouse races more competitive and encouraging more Illinoisans to vote will keep lawmakers more accountable to their communities than to special interests. This will ensure Illinois’ most vulnerable communities have truer representation in Springfield.
“People still believe they can kick this can as much as they want and someday, they’re going to get a different sound from it. But it’s the same can, and the same road,” Turan said. “Voters are doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.”
“Just like your home, you can’t just sit down and watch your roof collapse. You’re living under it,” he said. “That’s why everyone is responsible, and everyone has to do something.”