By Patrick Forest
During the 2018 midterm election voters under the age of 35 led Chicago to its largest voter turnout in 32 years, but this year the youth turnout led to a record low turnout, narrowly missing the mark of 33 percent turnout set back in 2007.
As of 5:00 p.m., just over 15 percent of the ballots cast were by those under 35. That small percentage affected no campaign harder than Amara Enyia’s, who pursued the youth vote strongly after receiving the endorsement of Chance the Rapper.
Enyia stated during the early voting period that young voters would have a “significant impact” in choosing the next mayor while leading a group on a march to the polls. Youth like John Arenas, 22, took time to volunteer for the Amara Enyia campaign and tried to help get the youth turnout up.
“I have reminded my friends about voting, like I do with every election,” Arenas said. “I know it’s usually expected that young people don’t vote or don’t care what happens but we do, just most of the time there is no one running to connect with.”
And the youth connection with Enyia may be an important factor in the runoff election coming up. More than 352,000 people ages 25-34 were registered to vote in the city, making it by far the winner in terms of voter registration among Chicago’s age groups. The age group with the next-highest amount of voter registration, people aged 65 and up, had 278,485 people registered to vote.
With that large number of voters being available whichever campaign is able to grab the hearts of millennials and drive them to the polls will be at a huge advantage.
“Right now, I’m leaning towards Lightfoot. She holds a lot of the same values that Amara [Enyia] did,” Arenas said. “But we’ll have to see if there can be even more youth support and turnout.”