The race and geography of voters, as well as their support for President Donald Trump, played major roles in some key races in Tuesday’s election, shows a WBEZ analysis of election data and exit polling.
Voter geography was a factor in the failed attempt to change the flat income tax in Illinois to a graduated income tax, analysis of the unofficial tallies from Tuesday’s election shows. The proposed constitutional amendment needed 60% of the vote, or a simple majority of support from those voting in the election. Statewide, just 45% of voters who responded to the ballot question voted for the change, according to vote totals from the Associated Press.
In Chicago, most voters were supportive of the measure with more than 71% voting “yes.” The greatest support came from the city’s majority-Black wards, where more than 82% voted for the graduated income tax, according to the WBEZ analysis of tallies as of Thursday.
But support for the graduated income tax waned outside the city. And the farther away voters were from Chicago, the more they voted “no” on the ballot question. In suburban Cook County, 53% voted for the measure and 47% opposed it. In the surrounding five collar counties — DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties — just 42% voted “yes,” while 58% voted “no.” And in the remainder of the state, just 33% of voters supported the proposed constitutional amendment and 67% voted against it.
In downstate counties that went for Trump in the presidential election, support for the graduated income tax was even lower at just 28%, according to the WBEZ analysis.
Statewide exit polling by the Associated Press also showed links between support for Trump and opposition to the graduated income tax. According to the polling, among voters who said that the state’s flat tax was very fair, 72% supported Trump. On the flip side, among voters who said the state’s flat tax was not too unfair or not fair at all, 59% supported Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Illinois 14th Congressional District
A robust turnout among voters in a Trump-leaning county could be among the deciding factors in the race for Illinois’ 14th Congressional District, which comprises portions of seven Chicago-area counties. A razor-thin margin separates Republican challenger Jim Oberweis and Democratic freshman incumbent Lauren Underwood.
As of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Underwood trailed by 716 votes, according to vote totals from the Associated Press. Underwood has not conceded the race, instead holding out for additional mail-in absentee ballots that can be counted if they’re delivered by Nov. 17.
Compared with two years ago, Underwood’s percentage of the vote slipped throughout parts of the district, according to the WBEZ analysis. Underwood got less support than Oberweis in four of the district’s seven counties.
She was hit hardest in McHenry County, where a surge in votes from constituents, the only county of the seven to go for Trump, may prove to be too much for Underwood to overcome, the analysis shows. In McHenry County, Underwood trailed Oberweis by nearly 8,000 votes, a much wider margin there than when she unseated former Congressman Randy Hultgren two years ago.
In 2018, Underwood got about 2,000 fewer votes than Hultgren in McHenry County, but she received 12,000 more votes than he did elsewhere in the district. However, this year, roughly 109,000 votes in the 14th District race came from McHenry County — the most of any county in the district and a whopping 68% increase from two years ago.
Illinois state Supreme Court
Democratic Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride also received less support from voters in counties that favored Trump. Kilbride was unsuccessful in his bid for another 10-year term on the state’s highest court among voters in 21 counties, stretching completely across north-central Illinois from Rock Island County on the state’s western border to south suburban Will County on the eastern border.
But even his showing in the counties that went for Biden fell short of the 60% he needed in order to retain his seat. Kilbride received 59% of the vote in counties that went for Biden and 53% of the vote in counties that went for Trump, according to a WBEZ analysis of vote totals from the Associated Press. Overall, Kilbride received just 56% of the vote, according to the Associated Press, with 98% of precincts reporting.
Cook County state’s attorney
Closer to home, Democratic Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx was successful in securing another term with a seemingly convincing win over Democrat-turned-Republican challenger Pat O’Brien. But Foxx’s comfortable 250,000-vote margin of victory masks a deep drop in support from various communities throughout the county, particularly in the suburbs.
In 2016, Foxx made history as the first African American woman elected state’s attorney in Cook County. She did it with tremendous backing from Black voters, earning 94% of the vote in Chicago’s majority-Black wards, according to a WBEZ analysis of election data from the city’s board of election commissioners and ward demographic data from researcher Rob Paral. She also claimed nearly two-thirds of the vote in other parts of the county.
However, Foxx’s support wilted outside of Black Chicago after her first term was marred by heavy criticism of her handling of the high-profile case against actor Jussie Smollett — which included votes of no-confidence by the largest police union in Chicago and a group of suburban police chiefs.
Foxx received 62% of the vote in suburban Cook County in 2016, but she got just 43% this year — several points below the 50% O’Brien received in the suburbs.
In Chicago, though Foxx’s support slipped among voters in majority-Black wards from 2016, it remained strong this year at 84%, the analysis shows. But her numbers dropped by more than 20 percentage points in majority-white wards (from 70% to 49%), majority-Latino wards (from 81% to 56%) and wards with no racial majority (from 78% to 57%).
The Chicago youth vote
The unofficial tallies from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners also show that more ballots were cast by 25- to 34-year-olds and 35- to 44-year-olds than any other age bracket. Combined, those age groups accounted for nearly 41% of all votes in the city.
However, older voters were still more likely to vote. Higher percentages of registered voters in the 45-to-54, 55-to-64 and 65-to-74 year-old brackets turned out for the election than the younger age groups, according to data from the city’s board of election commissioners. Roughly 65% of registered 25- to 34-year-olds and 69% of registered 35- to 44-year-olds participated in the election. But turnout exceeded 70% for most of the older age groups, excepting those 75 and older.
Alden Loury is the senior editor of WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow him @AldenLoury.