Low local turnout defines April elections
Even in the ousting of the scandal-ridden College of DuPage board, a mere 1 in 6 eligible to vote did.
State politicians returned to Springfield on April 13 following a two-week break, and will be in session for the next six weeks – or potentially longer – with the task of passing a budget for the coming fiscal year.
But local officials have to balance budgets and make myriad decisions within their communities as well. Despite this, a majority of Illinoisans didn’t cast votes in their local elections this spring.
The April 7 consolidated election saw roughly 81 percent of registered voters stay home and leave the rest to decide who will spend up to 90 percent of their local real-estate tax bill. Up for election were many municipal mayors, village presidents, councilmen, aldermen, commissioners, park-district trustees, library-board members and school-board trustees.
While the College of DuPage is mired in controversy over hidden spending, no-bid contracts and a $763,000 buyout for the school’s president, a mere 17 percent of those footing the bill came out to make changes to the board when given the chance.
Other examples of low voter turnout included:
- DuPage County cities and villages: 15.2%
- Will County: 14.9%
- Suburban Cook County: 14.0%
- Lake County: 11.3%
- Madison County: 15.4%
- LaSalle County: 21.1%
Voter apathy doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Due to a rich history of public corruption, Illinoisans have the lowest level of trust in their state government in the nation, and a trickle-down effect resulting in local-government cynicism is likely. March saw a barrage of local-government corruption stories across the state. But this isn’t the only factor at play.
In addition to having the second-highest property taxes in the nation, Illinois has the most units of government of any state in the country. This can make it overwhelming for residents to understand exactly how much government they’re paying for.
In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, voter engagement can be a crucial tool in determining the fiscal future of communities across the state, and even preventing corruption in the first place.