Ray voters

Residents wait in line outside Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., before early voting began on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Left to right: Joan Sivels, Jessical Sivels, Kimberli Pullin and Elaine Jones. 

Voting by mail or braving a pandemic, nearly 90% of eligible voters in Hyde Park-Kenwood cast ballots this fall, and overwhelmingly for President-elect Joe Biden.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners proclaimed the election results on Nov. 24. A Herald analysis of the 30 4th and 5th Ward precincts that cover the area between 47th Street, the Midway Plaisance, Cottage Grove Avenue and the lakefront showed 88.19% voter turnout in the 2020 general election, up from 82.7% in Hyde Park-Kenwood four years ago.

In all, the 20,464 Hyde Park-Kenwood voters who cast ballots constituted just under 2% of the total 1,028,870 ballots cast citywide.

The highest turnout, technically, came from the 27th Precinct of the 5th Ward, which covers most of the University of Chicago campus and is physically the largest in the area. Out of 657 registered voters, 667, or 101.52%, cast ballots.

Reached for comment about the oddity, Election Board spokesman James P. Allen emailed, "A large number of same-day registrations can cause that statistic, because the registration numbers reflect the pre-election subtotal, not the post-election net gains in registrations created through same-day registrations."

"In the case of Precinct 27, there not only were Election Day registrations, but also dozens of registrations during the latter stage of early voting," he continued. "As a result, the number of voters exceeded the outdated registration count."

That precinct was the only where turnout exceeded 100% of registered voters; it did so in 2016 as well, when the figures were 871 out of 785, or 110.96%.

The otherwise highest precinct turnout in Hyde Park-Kenwood came from the 7th in the 5th Ward, made up of the Twin Towers Apartments, 1649 E. 50th St., and Regents Park, 5035 S. East End Ave, where 629 ballots were cast and 639 voters are registered (98.44%).

The lowest precinct turnout came from the 4th Ward's 26th Precinct, between 49th and 53rd streets and Dorchester and Lake Park avenues. There, 596 ballots were cast, and 778 voters are registered (76.61%).

Adam Parrott-Sheffer, a newly returned Hyde Park resident who worked the 7th Precinct polls on Election Day, said Nov. 3 was busy, with eight machines set up and five or six people waiting in line all day. It was his and two of the three other workers' first time running at a polling place.

"All younger guys who saw that, between COVID and having read about the primaries, when we didn't have enough people working it, it seemed like a really important moment to lean in and really support democracy," he said. "It never stopped. … I don't think I really sat all that much. We never had extremely long lines, but pretty much all day, people coming through."

Asked to reflect on the meaning of such high neighborhood turnout this year in particular, Parrott-Sheffer said, "When you think about this particular election, a lot of the values that people in Hyde Park stand for seemed to be on the docket, when you think about some of these national issues around immigration, how we treat people, racial relations.

"These are things that are near and dear to this community, and I think that pushes a lot of turnout in addition to just being a place where people care a lot about politics."

There are now 23,204 registered voters in Hyde Park-Kenwood, down from 24,082 in 2016.

If Hyde Park-Kenwood were a ward, only three wards — the 43rd (Lincoln Park), 44th (Lakeview) and 47th (North Center, Ravenswood and parts of Lincoln Square and Andersonville) — would have had higher turnout.

As it stands, turnout in the 4th Ward was 81.92%, and it was 80.47% in the 5th Ward — up 78.23% and 77.15%, respectively, from 2016.

Among all wards, the 4th Ward had the 10th highest turnout this year, and the 5th Ward had the 13th-highest turnout. After the Beverly- and Mount Greenwood-based 19th Ward, the 4th and 5th wards had the highest turnout on the South Side.

The nearby 3rd Ward (part of South Loop, western Bronzeville and northern Washington Park) saw 75.14% turnout this year and 74.93% in 2016. In the 20th Ward (Woodlawn, southern Washington Park and parts of Englewood and Back of the Yards), turnout was 63.97% this year and 65.11% in 2016.

Citywide turnout was 73.28% this year and 71.04% in 2016.

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