All eyes on election authorities as race for state prosecutors remains tight

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With mail-in ballots pouring in after Election Day, the Democratic primary race for Cook County state’s attorney remained very close Wednesday, as both candidates avoided declaring victory or admitting defeat and They called for restraint as election officials continued tabulating votes.

Both retired appeals judge Eileen O’Neill Burke and Clayton Harris III remained out of public view hours after they both greeted supporters at their election night parties to acknowledge that the day was over. no clear resolution. Both are vying to replace outgoing top prosecutor Kim Foxx.

O’Neill Burke began Wednesday with a narrow lead of about 9,400 votes over Harris, with tens of thousands of mail-in ballots still to be counted across the city and suburbs and results from about 20 city precincts still to be counted. They were pending. By Wednesday night, his lead had narrowed to 8,800 votes when nine of those 20 precincts reported their results.

“This is not over!” He said the Harris campaign in an email to her supporters Wednesday morning. “The margin between us has been steadily shrinking. We are still analyzing the data and awaiting updates from the (Chicago) Board of Elections on pending ballots, and we will keep you informed as we learn more. “We will make sure every vote is counted and your voices are heard.”

O’Neill Burke shared a similar message.

“It was a long night and we are still waiting for the final precincts and mail-in ballots to arrive,” he said in his email to his sponsors. “We led in votes all night and are cautiously optimistic. “It is essential that we allow our democratic process to continue.”

Chicago’s 20 precincts were unable to report in-person voting results Tuesday, Chicago elections spokesman Max Bever said. Ballot scanner cards from those precincts were recovered Wednesday and would be counted later in the evening or possibly Thursday morning, he said.

The remaining 11 precincts were scattered throughout the city, but most were in districts that leaned heavily for Harris.

Hover over the map to see each candidate’s vote share in precincts across the city.

Whoever wins heavily Democratic Cook County will have a big advantage in the November general election. The winner will face former Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti, a lawyer who previously ran for office as a Democrat but is running as a Republican this year. Cook County voters have not elected a Republican as state attorney since 1992.

Cook County State's Attorney candidate Clayton Harris III addresses supporters at his late-night campaign rally at a restaurant in the 200 block of North Canal Street on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, in Chicago.  (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
Cook County State’s Attorney candidate Clayton Harris III addresses supporters at his late-night campaign rally at a restaurant in the 200 block of North Canal Street on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, in Chicago. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

How much could pending mail-in votes change things?

In Chicago, 176,195 mail-in ballots were mailed to registered voters, Bever said. Of those, 66,399 were returned on Monday and counted as part of Tuesday night’s results. That left just 110,000 ballots that had not been returned by mail.

Bever said he doesn’t expect all of those ballots to be returned, but he estimated, based on mail-in ballot returns in previous elections, that between 60,000 and 70,000 will arrive in the next two weeks. However, some of those ballots will not be Democratic primary ballots and those that are may not have votes cast in the state’s attorney race.

Processing of mail-in ballots will begin Thursday and scanning and counting will begin Friday. The first updated unofficial election results should be available Friday evening, Bever said.

According to a Tribune analysis, between 40% and 60% of outstanding mail-in ballots have been returned in Chicago’s two most recent elections, so the return rate is likely closer to 55,000 in Chicago alone. . However, given the historical situation low voter turnout in this electionthat number could be even lower.

In suburban Cook County, 46,000 mail-in ballots were still outstanding Wednesday, and not all of them are expected to be returned either.

Cook County State's Attorney candidate Eileen O'Neill Burke appears before supporters at her headquarters on election night in Chicago on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
Cook County State’s Attorney candidate Eileen O’Neill Burke appears before supporters at her headquarters on election night in Chicago on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)

How was the vote divided across the city?

Overall, Harris’s progressive campaign won more votes in Chicago, while O’Neill Burke’s tougher-on-crime approach resonated with suburban Cook County voters.

But even across the city there were considerable margins between the two candidates.

Harris won big on the South and West sides, with her largest leads in Districts 8 and 21, both on the South Side. In those areas, which encompass parts of Burnside, Avalon Park, Chatham, Washington Heights, Roseland and Auburn Gresham, Harris won about 80% of the vote.

O’Neill Burke, meanwhile, performed better on the Far Northwest Side, Southwest Side and Near North Side.

TO Northwest Native Sider O’Neill Burke, who grew up in a family of police officers, received nearly 85% of the vote in the far northwest District 41, which covers Norwood Park and Edison Park. In District 13, once the southwest side power base of now-impeached former House Speaker Michael Madigan, he won 77% of the vote.

In two districts — the first, which includes Wicker Park, Bucktown and parts of Logan Square, and the 46th, which includes Uptown — the vote was almost evenly split.

Search by district or hover over the map to see which candidate won in each Chicago region and their respective vote percentage.

The breakdown of voting preferences in the suburban Cook County race is expected to be released later this week.

The primary vote between O’Neill Burke and Harris is not only a referendum on Foxx’s tenure over the past two terms, but also for the county Democratic Party, which endorsed Harris. He has tried to balance Foxx’s focus on overturning wrongful convictions and deprioritizing misdemeanors with demands from some members of the criminal justice system to more aggressively prosecute carjackings, robberies and gun crimes.

“Throughout this campaign you have heard me talk a lot about security and justice. That’s what this campaign is about. … This is not an either/or proposition, it is an ‘and’ proposition,” Harris told his supporters Tuesday night.

Harris “will continue the effort to ensure that those who come to the courtroom, whether they are alleged perpetrators or victims, are treated fairly,” the county Democratic Party chairman and chairman of the Democratic Party told reporters Tuesday night. Cook County Board Toni Preckwinkle. “There is a lot at stake in this race. That is why we take a strong position.”

O’Neill Burke has taken a tougher approach on crime who criticized Foxx’s leadership, often pointing out burnout and low morale in the office. He promoted the creation of a felony prosecution office to attract tough trial lawyers along with a separate restorative justice office for juvenile, drug and mental health cases.

“We want illegal guns and assault weapons off our streets. We want less crime and safer communities, not by locking everyone up, but by getting people to change course,” O’Neill Burke told his supporters Tuesday night. “The state’s attorney’s office has a noble mission: a mission to represent victims, a mission to uphold the law.”

Tribune reporters Megan Crepeau and Sam Charles contributed.

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