Election Day voters at Robert Crown Center.

While many candidates can celebrate their Election Day victories, the real winners on April 4, unfortunately, appear to be named Apathy, Disinterest and even Ignorance.

Voter turnout for the contested school board race in District 65 was a mere 17%. That’s fewer than 10,000 people either voting early, mailing in ballots, or voting in person on Election Day.

In 2021, turnout in the same election was 23%.

It is still possible that 2023 will top 2021, because there are mail-in votes to be counted.

Ballots postmarked by Election Day will be added to the totals, if those ballots arrive within two weeks.

As of 10 a.m. on April 3 (the day before Election Day), 7, 300 mail-in ballots had been requested from Evanston. That’s nearly a 1,000 ballot increase over 2021.

However, not all mail-in ballots are actually completed and sent back. In the 2021 election, the return rate was 72%. (As of April 3, the Evanston return rate was 34%).

Ballots counted after Election Day can sometimes influence the outcome of a race.

In District 65, challenger John Martin trailed incumbent Sergio Hernandez on election night by 153 votes for the last of three school board seats at stake.

Late arriving mail in ballots had increased the incumbent’s lead to 264 votes by Thursday evening.

(The charts below should update daily until the final vote totals are in.)

Turnout numbers in the District 202 school board this year race mirror those from District 65.

But the late-arriving mail-in ballots had only increased the vote spread between winner Elizabeth Rolewicz and loser Kristin Scotti by 13 votes, from 667 to 680.

The fact that only two aldermanic races were on the ballot this year may have also helped to hold down turnout.

The 2nd and 9th Wards had two-year terms at stake, as appointed alders Krissie Harris and Juan Geracaris held off challengers and will complete the remainder of their four-year slots.

Ballots counted by election night amount to a 21.59% turnout in the 2nd Ward and to a 22.66% turnout in the 9th Ward.

As of Thursday evening those numbers had increased to 21.69% and 24.48% respectively.

Two years ago, all nine aldermanic races, plus a race for mayor, were on the ballot.

However the raw number and percentage increases from mail-in ballots do turn out, the total Evanston vote will still be rather abysmal.

Neil Weingarden, a vounteer for the Democratic Party of Evanston, was passing out sample ballots during early voting.

Weingarden said “we want to see more engagement” between voters and candiates.

‘As a community,” Weindarden added, “we need to do more to get better turnout. After this election it wold be nice fore a bunch of local leaders to get together and discuss this.”

And now, a personal note. There’s one thing I’ve never forgotten from my freshman political science class at the University of Michigan, a bunch of years ago.

“Most people,” the professor said, “don’t care about most issues most of the time.”

So in that regard, not much has changed.

But at least Evanston is less apathetic than lots of other places. In suburban Cook County as a whole (before late mail-ins are counted), turnout was 13%.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. If we are being honest with ourselves, not voting is a shade of privilege. How can we not be bothered for 10 mins to save the kids from continual free fall in every important objective measure? Sad.

  2. One problem is the quality of candidates. I live in the second ward and all of them were “meh.” Same with the 202 slate. You had one 202 race where nobody was on the ballot!

    The District 65 candidates were also generally uninspiring.

    We would be better served if the school districts were consolidated. That might make the stakes higher and you might see some better candidates join the race.

    1. I don’t know if you have kids in public school or not, but all three of mine are currently Evanston public schools. Not that we haven’t seriously considered private alternatives (our kids have veto power in this regard). School board elections are important to us, but I understand why folks who don’t have kids in school at this time have less interest.

      In the end, I suspect it is a bad idea to have school board elections in the absence of other municipal, state or federal level elections on the ballot as well. We need more than 20% of the voters to add their opinion to school board elections — after all, we all pay the bills.

  3. It’s a sad day for our democracy when so few people vote.

    Do you have access to data that provides more granular details about voters?
    For example, do we know the voting turnout by ward and even precinct?


  4. Our property value and taxes are directly impacted by school performance/reputation. I realize it’s tempting to disengage after the kids matriculate out of D65/202, but wow, if ever there was a time to vote in some new faces, it was last week. So disappointing.

  5. At this moment in American politics, school boards and turnout at school board meetings are the front line against extremism from right-wing groups such as Moms for Liberty. Moms for Liberty members support book banning, anti-LGBTQ, anti-teaching about slavery and racism such as we’ve seen with Governor De Santis in Florida. “It can’t happen here” can happen here. We need to wake up and participate.

    1. It’s already happening here, just in less obvious and more polite ways than the group you named. Fortunately, enough voters could see through it. Local politics matter!

    2. Parents care about what their kids are being taught. Period.

      You can label disagreement anyway you want according to your party’s narrative. But that doesn’t change the deep deep concern parents have over their children.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *