Chicago voter turnout: big factor

The size of the voter turnout for Chicago's mayoral election on Tuesday may well determine its outcome, reports Monitor correspondent Lucia Mouat. If the February primary level - 77.4 percent of Chicago's registered voters - holds, political analysts here give Democrat Harold Washington the winning edge. If, on the other hand, turnout levels reach 80 percent or more, as is considered likely, GOP candidate Bernard Epton may well net a winning margin. Despite an intense voter registration drive under way since October that nearly doubled the number of black voters, there are still about 200,000 more white than black voters in the city.

A recent Gallup poll conducted for the Chicago Sun-Times and WMAQ-TV found that black voters, who tend largely to support black candidate Washington, generally have a higher degree of interest in the election. Less-educated whites - who tend to support white candidate Epton - are assessed in the poll as the least likely to vote of any group in the city. The Gallup Organization also found that whites outnumber blacks among undecided voters and that many tend to have a negative view of Mr. Washington and mixed views about Mr. Epton. Washington won the three-way Democratic primary by getting about 84 percent of the black vote and about 7 percent of the white vote. He is generally running ahead in polls in this heavily Democratic city, but his lead has been narrowing. Political analysts say he needs at least 20 percent of the white vote.

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