March election set a record for low voter turnout in a primary, with about 16 percent of all registered voters casting ballots across Cook County. But one bright spot in the otherwise dismal measure of civic engagement was found among newly-registered young voters, according to a study released Wednesday by a consortium of local elections officials and civic groups. The study, titled “Voting Early and Often,” found a higher percentage of registered 17- and 18-year-olds voted than did registered voters in many older age groups. The study analyzed participation by those who are registered to vote, breaking down the statistics by gender and age; it did not take into account the number of youth who are eligible, but have not registered.
In Chicago, 18.5 percent of registered 17-year-old girls cast ballots in March, according to the study. Meanwhile, roughly 15 percent of registered 17-year-old boys cast ballots in the city. In contrast, registered Chicago voters between the ages of 20 and 48 all turned out to the polls at lower rates, according to the study.
Statistics for suburban Cook County weren’t included in the report, but officials said they were comparable to the city, said Mark Mesle, the outreach coordinator for Cook County Clerk David Orr.
Data shows 18-year-olds cast ballots at a lower rate than 17-year-olds. But a sharp drop-off in participation occurs when a voter turns 20, according to the study.