Theresa Mah, Illinois’ first Asian American legislator.
I provided a list of wards that voted for Bernie Sanders yesterday and noted the fact that those wards had lower absolute numbers of voters as compared to wards that went for Clinton.
The percentage of a vote a candidate receives may matter in a local ward election for alderman. But for legislative, state and presidential elections, total turnout for our candidate is what counts.
Included in my list of wards was the 12th.
The 12th ward includes Brighton Park, McKinley Park, Little Village, and Back of the Yards.
“Voter turnout in the 12th ward presents real challenges,” said 12 ward resident and long-time community activist, Bill Drew.
We talked this morning.
Ward boundaries are determined by population, not voter registration. The 12th has a large population of immigrants, non-citizens and undocumented. That reality places them near the bottom when it comes to the total number of registered voters.
“We are rising to what seemed like impossible challenges in my ward – the 12th,” Bill said to me.
“We have a new 12th Ward IPO and some really dedicated soldiers. They are heavily Latino, heavily working class. Some of use got this kind of activity in the first Chuy/Rudy race. If we use this new vehicle of a disciplined electorally oriented group dedicated to voter registration, and we figure out ways to groom and promote good candidates, you will see a process that can be emulated in struggling Latino wards south west and even you guys up north can take a page from our book. We are diving into an education tied with an action institute to train the young leaders that have been coming forward. We are the gateway to the south west side. We know that non-citizens can’t vote and that is one objective obstacle to turnout. Tuesday was a banner break out day for our group.”
Bill added, “A member of our group actually won and is going to Springfield. Not unlike Gizzardi except Theresa Mah won on her first try. And there were beau coup new registrations going right up to election day.”
A report yesterday in Medill Reports makes the exact same point.
“[The Latino community is] getting older in age and more and more people are either born in the U.S. or have been here long enough that they have been able to be citizens,” said Rob Paral, a Chicago-based demographer. “The numbers are there for the Latino vote to be more important than ever.”
The preliminary results of Tuesday’s election seem to affirm Paral’s and others’ analyses.
Historically, Hispanic turnout is consistently lower in the primaries than for other Chicago-area voters – as much as 36 percentage points lower in some cases. But Tuesday’s turnout in Hispanic communities was nearly on par with suburban Cook County and Chicago.
Almost 45 percent of the registered voters in the predominantly Latino 12th Ward turned out to vote, just six percentage points lower than the rest of Chicago.
This also has long-term importance for a progressive rainbow electoral coalition.
Theresa Mah will be the first Asian-American Illinois legislator. Although her legislative district only includes about a third of the 12th ward, she carried the entire ward.