Although he held a steady lead for most of the Feb. 24 mayoral race, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fell short of the 50 percent vote needed to win the 2015 Chicago mayoral election without entering a runoff. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia trailed behind him with a 33.9 percent following.
The fact that there will be six more weeks of campaigning to win over more voters is not dissapointing, though. What is disappointing is how many Chicagoans found their way to a voting booth.
According to IllinoisElectionDa ta.com, only 33 percent of regis- tered voters visited the polls on Feb. 24—less than 1 percent higher than Chicago’s record-low voter participation of 32 percent in 2003.
Voting—perhaps one of the greatest freedoms afforded to Americans—is a social respon- sibility, too. The right was barely exercised in this year’s mayoral election, though.
The low turnout could be attributed to the loss of hope Chicagoans feel in their city’s political system, a machine infamously known for scandal, nepotism and corruption. Although each candidate may promise to change the political structure
and the current state of Chicago throughout their campaigns, Chicagoans have heard it all before. Voters may be turned off to the idea of voting because they are cynical or they may think their opinion on a ballot does not matter.
This race showed that Chicagoans did not want to vote for Emanuel, but also did not feel inclined to vote for the other candidates either.
Though the race is between the two candidates best suited to be mayor, the decision of who will lead is on hold for the coming weeks as more money is poured into campaigning and promises of what could be.
I predicted Emanuel, Garcia and Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward) would finish in the top three because of their extensive experience in Chicago politics. However, Willie Wilson, a successful businessman originally from Louisiana, gained more votes than Fioretti, placing him behind Garcia with 10.6 percent of the votes. Although Wilson has admitted that he knows nothing about politics, he has also said that his business knowl- edge could benefit the city, which resonated well with 10 percent of Chicago voters.
Wilson’s voter turn out is a sign that Chicago is ready for something—or someone—different.
Emanuel has made some unfavorable decisions as mayor. But why are his decisions and those of past mayors enough to push voters in a different direction toward a candidate who has yet to get his feet wet in politics and doesn’t have more than a seventh-grade education? If Chicagoans don’t like the city’s political state, they have the power to change it by voting.