2022 expected to be Illinois’ most competitive ballot in over 24 years

May 12, 2022

82 statehouse races expected to bring in 4.3 million votes in November


CONTACT: Melanie Krakauer (312) 607-4977

2022 expected to be Illinois’ most competitive ballot in over 24 years
82 statehouse races expected to bring in 4.3 million votes in November 

CHICAGO (May 12, 2022) – Voters in Illinois have been historically presented with few choices when it comes to who will represent them in the Statehouse, but with six months until the Nov. 8 general election, 2022 looks to be the year that could change.

A new Illinois Policy Institute analysis finds the state could see 82 contested Illinois House of Representative races in November, the most in 24 years. That many choices could boost the total vote tally to 4.3 million, the largest turnout for a non-presidential year in recent history.

During the past two decades, only 64 of Illinois’ 118 districts have been contested on average by candidates from each major party. The previous highest number of contested elections was 80 races in 2002.

With 1.2 million more Illinoisans having a choice in 2022 than in 2018, experts from the Institute say contested elections may provide other advantages. Residents in contested districts tend to see higher levels of education, income, employment and home value because competition for their votes yields public leaders who are more responsive to their needs.

“Giving voters choice has huge benefits for the state and its residents. As more Statehouse races see multiple candidates on the ballot, state lawmakers will be more accountable to their communities and less beholden to special interest lobbyists. That will ensure Illinois’ most vulnerable communities have truer representation in Springfield,” said Bryce Hill, senior research analyst for the Illinois Policy Institute.

Why 82? 58 districts currently have registered candidates from each major party because of efforts from Illinois Policy to increase ballot access. Plus, on average, an additional 19 races have been slated by major parties after primary season during the past 10 years. Five additional districts are also estimated to become contested through the party slating process as a result of Illinois Policy’s candidate recruitment efforts.

Where are the uncontested races? Most Statehouse districts in Illinois that have traditionally been uncontested are within or contain parts of the city of Chicago. Thirty-three of the 57 historically uncontested districts are in Chicago, showing the most need for responsive representation. Ten districts are in the collar county area and 14 come from downstate Illinois.

How do historically uncontested districts in Chicago hurt vulnerable populations? 

  • Historically uncontested Chicago districts have more than twice the share of Black and Hispanic residents compared to historically contested districts.
  • The median home value in contested Chicago Statehouse districts is $348,916, or 41% higher than the $246,637 seen in uncontested districts.
  • Income per person is 36% higher in contested districts than in uncontested districts.
  • 49% of those in contested districts have at least a bachelor’s degree, while only 33% in uncontested districts have a four-year degree.
  • Workers in uncontested districts were 67% more likely to be unemployed than workers in contested districts, with average unemployment rates of 8.5% and 5.1% respectively from 2015-2019.
  • There are 10.8% of residents in contested districts living at or below the poverty line, compared to 16.5% of residents in uncontested districts.

To read the full report, visit illin.is/contested.

For bookings or interviews, contact Melanie Krakauer at media@illinoispolicy.org or 312-607-4977.