In overwhelmingly Democratic Chicago, significantly higher numbers of people are backing Republicans, early voting returns reveal.
The number of early voters in Chicago, its suburbs and across the state has increased dramatically, but the returns particularly reveal the sharp hike in the percentage of Republican voters in the city.
This increase is largely because Donald Trump has been attracting those who have not cast a ballot for some time, as well as drawing some Democrats, according to one of the Republican front-runner's most vocal supporters in the city.
Trump canceled an appearance at the University of Illinois, Chicago Friday following clashes between his supporters and protesters.
His campaign was criticized before and after for scheduling the rally
at a university campus
close to the center of the city, and which abuts a neighborhood whose population is 80-percent Hispanic, the highest concentration in Chicago.
Attorney Doug Ibendahl, a Trump supporter who said he is close to the campaign and was at the rally, defended the candidate’s choice of venue and argued many Chicagoans support him.
“Why is it always Chicago encourages an organized mob to shout down an event, and cannot protect his First Amendment right?” Ibendahl said to AMI Newswire. Ibendahl runs the Chicago-based Republican News Watch.
Ibendahl said, “Donald Trump is bringing in Democrats. Personally, I know Democrats in Chicago, who have never voted Republican, who are voting for him.”
Pointing to the results in other states, which suggest Trump was the biggest beneficiary of increased turnout, Ibendahl believes most of those voting Republican are voting for his candidate.
In Illinois, the winner of the statewide vote receives 15 of the state’s delegates. Another 54 delegates are awarded through votes in the state’s 18 congressional districts, of which 13 are in Chicago, the rest of Cook and its collar counties.
In Chicago, 130,000 early votes had been cast by late Sunday afternoon, Chicago Board of Elections Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez told reporters Monday. That’s a 37-percent increase over the previous high for a primary, in 2008, the last contested by both parties.
Ten percent of those voted Republican, an increase of 4 percent from 2008. The total number of early Republican votes nearly trebled from 2008, to a still-small but significant 13,000.
The percentage increase in suburban Cook County is even greater, with just over 100,000 voting early, close to doubling the 2008 numbers. Of those, 28 per cent voted Republican, up from 19 percent in 2008, while 72 percent voted Democrat.
Chris Cleveland, Chicago's GOP chairman, said turnout is up “because the Republican race this year is so much more interesting that the Democratic one.
“Everyone has an opinion. (I) can't think of an election cycle that's been more fun than this one,” Cleveland told AMI in an email.
“The outcome of the Republican primary really matters and, for the first time in a long time, the Illinois primary really matters. We truly don't know what's going to happen.”
While the percentage of Republicans voting has increased, the numbers also show a huge jump in the Democratic vote.
Polls suggest Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton sits ahead of Bernie Sanders in her home state. But Sanders' campaign believes an increased turnout could signal an upset in the state, even eclipsing his victory in Michigan.
Sanders has focused on the deep unpopularity of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, linking him directly with Clinton. Emanuel has not appeared with Clinton at rallies in Chicago.
Voters in Illinois can pick up a ballot for either party at early voting centers and polling stations.