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Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 12:01 am

A city divided

Election results follow race, class geography of Springfield

 Doris Turner doesn’t need a map to know where the Democratic votes come from in Springfield.

Turner is in her second two-year term as chairwoman of the Sangamon County Democratic Party, so she knows that her party’s base is mostly concentrated in Springfield’s northeast quadrant. Republican candidates averaged more support than Democrats in 147 of Springfield’s 180 precincts in the Nov. 4 general election. Almost all of the Democratic-leaning precincts are clustered together in an area of high African-American population and low income.

“When you look at those east side precincts that are more heavily African- American, those are traditional Democratic votes,” Turner said. “However, if you look at those areas that are more north end, they’re not necessarily African-American voters; they are traditionally Democratic voters because they’re not as polarized along racial or ethnic lines as they are along issues that draw us together.”

Turner is also alderwoman of Ward 3 in Springfield and previously served on the Sangamon County Board.

Although Democratic-leaning precincts are mostly clustered together, several precincts on Springfield’s west and far north sides showed support for Democratic candidates at rates of more than 40 percent. Outside the city limits of Springfield, support for Democrats waned significantly, with one precinct in eastern Sangamon County delivering just 16.5 percent support for Democratic candidates.

Rosemarie Long, chairwoman of the Sangamon County Republican Central Committee, could not be reached for comment by publication.

Despite heavily favoring Republican candidates in the election, voters in Sangamon County also supported several initiatives pushed by Democrats. Two constitutional amendments and three special advisory questions each received majority support in Sangamon County and across the state, meaning at least some people who voted for Republicans also voted in favor of traditionally Democratic platforms like raising the minimum wage.

The Nov. 4 ballot asked voters to approve constitutional amendments to specifically prohibit voter discrimination and provide additional rights for crime victims. Both measures passed statewide. The voting rights amendment was a response by Democratic state lawmakers to voter identification laws passed in several Republican-led states. While Republicans say voter ID laws prevent voter fraud, Democrats contend they are actually aimed at disenfranchising minorities and poor people, who are less likely to have state identification.

More than 67 percent of voters in Sangamon County voted in favor of the voting rights amendment, and despite the Democratic connection to the issue, every Republican precinct in the county supported it, with even the least supportive precinct at nearly 56 percent.

The ballot also asked voters to weigh in on three “advisory” questions: whether health insurance plans with prescription drug coverage should include birth control, whether the minimum wage should be raised to $10 per hour for workers over age 18, and whether individual income greater than $1 million should be taxed an additional 3 percent, with the proceeds going toward education. Each of the measures passed overwhelmingly statewide and in Sangamon County.

The three advisory questions were placed on the ballot by Democratic state lawmakers, with Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly claiming the nonbinding questions were merely meant to drive voter turnout. Republicans in Sangamon County didn’t seem to mind, however.  Although the minimum wage question – as contentious and partisan an issue as any – received the least support of the three questions among Republicans, it still polled at nearly 56 percent in precincts that lean Republican. Democratic-leaning precincts supported the minimum wage question by about 79 percent.

Likewise, the so-called “millionaire tax” received 61 percent support among Republican-leaning precincts and 75 percent support among Democratic-leaning precincts. On the birth control question, Republican-leaning precincts offered 60 percent support while Democratic-leaning precincts supported it with 76 percent.

Asked why Republicans might support issues that are usually Democratic platforms, Turner said simply, “I believe these are all quality of life issues that cut across party lines.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

OVERVIEW MAP: http://cdb.io/1tYvODZ

DEMOCRAT SUPPORT MAP: http://cdb.io/11fboNK

REPUBLICAN SUPPORT MAP: http://cdb.io/11fcyc4

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