Feature photo by diffusor
Last Tuesday, according to the media and a vast amount of politicians, was one of the most historic days in city politics. Mayor Richard J. Daley, who was indisputably the king of Chicago, decided to end his reign after 21 years and retire, letting a new king take his throne. Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff to the president of the United States, and congressman of the fifth congressional district of Illinois, won with a whopping 55 percent of the vote to be the next mayor.
The cocky politician raised $11 million during his campaign, making it apparent that he was going to blow the other five candidates out of the water, which is exactly what he did. Rahm beat the others by about 31 percent, leaving the hopefuls in the dust. William Walls III had the lowest percentage of voters with 0.9 percent. I bet that shame came with a boost of confidence!
But here’s the issue we’re looking at: of the 2.6 million people in Chicago, only 1.4 million are registered to vote and of that only 593,156 voted, which means that about 42 percent of registered voters came out to choose their alderman and the next mayor. If you look at the numbers, 22 percent of the City of Chicago made one of the biggest decisions for the entire city. That’s disgusting.
I talked to one of my co-workers, and she said, “Rahm was going to win anyway, and I don’t have a problem with my alderman, so I didn’t find the need to vote.” She also didn’t have any time, but nonetheless, she didn’t vote.
Rudy Lozano, Jr., community organizer, told me that he doesn’t believe in voter apathy. You either make the conscious effort to vote, or you’re disconnected like so many young people seem to be. They don’t understand the meaning of their votes.
For those of you who don’t know about voter registration, there are only two cases in which you have to register to vote: 1) You changed your address or 2) you changed your name. If you are an inactive voter, you don’t have to re-register, but show proof of address.
Along with the mayoral elections, voters also decided on who their aldermen, or ward representatives, would be. Of the 50 wards in Chicago, only seven ran unopposed which meant that 43 seats in the Chicago City Council were up for grabs.
If you don’t know, aldermen are members of the Chicago City Council and work together with the mayor to make the city run. They make decisions for you, your neighborhood and how many schools are going up in their next four years in office.
On the South Side, the 12th ward has the lowest voter turnout in the city. This past election brought out fewer than 5,000 people to the polls. The 22nd ward is just a step up of the 12th. These two wards are also predominantly Latino populated. Coincidence? Maybe. But Latinos are also known for having very low numbers in voter turnout.
I can tell you that four years ago, the majority of voters that came out to vote in the 12th ward were over the age of 50, yet there are thousands of young people who don’t see the necessity in voting for A) someone who’s already going to win and B) for a position that doesn’t even have a job description. Don’t believe me? Google “Job of Chicago Aldermen” and see what you come up with. The best link that you’ll find is most likely going to talk about how Mayor Daley put up a job posting for Chicago Alderman when two aldermanic positions were left wide open—the first ward and the 29th. That’s it.
No one teaches you just how important the small roles are. Here’s another secret, the less voters the better for those running because there are less people to win over. No one else cares, so why should they? That’s the issue at hand. In municipal elections, every vote does count. This is when you’re supposed to stand up and say something about the things that really do affect you and your everyday life.
I can’t really say much about the mayoral election though. I mean, what guy is going to lose when you have two presidents giving their comments on how awesome you are. I do like the fact that although President Obama has a country to run, he stuck his nose into Chicago’s business by practically endorsing Rahm through his commercial.
Oh, and for those of you who think that the machine is dead in Chicago, it’s probably more alive than ever now. When Mayor Daley decided to step down, he didn’t really give his blessing to anyone. The people were supposed to voice their opinion and actually have a choice this time. But let me just point something out: Who did President Obama assign to his new chief-of-staff? William Daley, the Mayor’s brother. And who will be the new mayor? The president’s former chief-of-staff.
If that’s not machine-like, I don’t know what is.
For more on the political machine and HDO politics, check out my blog.