Chicago VBM Update

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VBM applications have begun to be returned in Chicago

We have a research agreement with South Lakefront Progressive Network to help with data analysis for 2020 GOTV. SLPN believes that many of the voters in their community was disenfranchised by Illinois when it decided to go ahead with the primary at the start of the pandemic. And, indeed, we were able to help them identify voters that we expected to vote, but didn’t.

Anyone’s goal should be to allow people to vote safely, no matter how they would prefer to do so. However, the heavy emphasis from state officials have been on encouraging people to vote by mail (VBM). And that’s great – VBM is safe and easy, and it is pandemic free. There was a lot of celebrating of the fact that everyone was going to get a VBM application in the mail.

We suspected that the mailer plan would not reach those in the SLPN communities who are historically disenfranchised. So we asked: what wards in Chicago have signed up for VBM so far?

Chicago’s VBM Applications Reflect it’s Racial and Economic Divide

There are a few interesting bits we can share. As of Monday, August 10th, about 14% of registered voters have requested a VBM ballot. The Board of Elections later that week said they had received over 200,000 applications on-line. They have also received an additional 30,000 or so in the mail. On a high level, what we have found is that, as with everything else in Chicago, VBM requests so far are reflective of the cities racial and economic investment divide. Some neighborhoods (in blue on the map) have VBM requests of over 25% of their registered voters. Others have under 10% (in red).

The wards in Chicago that have highest number of VBM applications are clustered in the northeast part of the city.

We believe that more investment needs to be made into engaging the South and West sides in VBM. There is no one size fits all solution to anything in Chicago. Mailing out the applications may not be the best way to reach everyone. We need to meet people where they are, and how they access information and news. These days, that’s not so much from the mailers they receive, but their mobile devices. We advise that our Committee people and anyone interested in putting together a GOTV plan for November 2020 should be focused on reaching people on their phones.