UPDATE March 22, 2024 — This week, Chicago residents voted against a proposal to raise the real estate transfer tax, which would have created a dedicated revenue stream to address homelessness. 

As of Friday at 5:47 p.m., 53 percent of voters voted against the proposal, and nearly 47 percent voted to raise the real estate transfer to a one-time tax on properties sold for over $1 million. 

So far, 358,331 ballots have been cast, about a nearly 23 percent citywide turnout of 1,509,554 active registered voters.

“These election results did not end the fight. Instead, they amplify our commitment to finding solutions for housing insecurity and addressing homelessness,” said the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless in a written statement. 

“While we are disappointed in the results, we continue to stay focused on what matters most: the building of a long-term movement for housing justice, with, for, and by the 68,000 Chicagoans experiencing homelessness in one of the richest cities in the world. We invite all who share this vision to join us for the next chapter. The fight for housing justice continues because housing is a human right,” the statement continues. 

All of Chicago’s 1,291 precincts reported their election results on March 21. The Board of Elections said it received 25,723 vote-by-mail ballots on Friday.

On March 19, the Board of Elections said that approximately 109,975 vote-by-mail ballots needed to be returned for counting. The board estimated that more than 71,000 ballots still have not yet been returned. Vote by mail ballots will be counted on a rolling basis until April 2, according to Max Bever, spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections.

On March 19, about 200 people, including housing advocates, Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), SEIU Healthcare SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana Executive Vice President Erica Bland gathered at Intentional Sports, a sports complex in Galewood, for an Election Night party in support of the Bring Chicago Home (BCH) a ballot question that asked Chicago voters if the city should increase the real estate transfer tax.

The vibe leading into tonight’s party was mixed. There was a sense of uncertainty, optimism, and pride in the grassroots organizing that took place last year to spread awareness about the BCH campaign. 

“We reached out to over 300,000 households, made over 600,000 calls, and sent over a million text messages,” said Diane Limus, a longtime volunteer for Communities United. “We will not give up until every vote is counted.” 

Communities United is a survivor-led, intergenerational racial justice organization in Chicago developing grassroots leadership.

As of 11:30 p.m., on March 19, the ballot question received 143,159 ‘yes’ votes, or 46 percent, and 166,139 ‘no’ votes or about 54 percent, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. In addition, the Chicago Board of Elections estimates that more than 109,000 outstanding mail-in ballots have not yet been returned. 

BCH advocates are not quite ready to wave the white flag, but they remain optimistic and are looking to see if the vote gap closes as counting continues over the next few days. 

“There are still 100,000 outstanding mail-in ballots to be counted, but whatever the final count, one thing is abundantly clear tonight: how determined our opponents are to continue profiting from displacement and inequality,” said Maxica Williams in a written statement.

She chairs the End Homelessness Ballot Initiative Committee and is the board president of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. 

Despite the vote gap, Hadden and BCH advocates are committed to continuing their fight for permanent housing and supportive services for the nearly 68,000 people who are experiencing homelessness in Chicago. 

“This was a community grassroots-led movement that led to community-led policy development, which led to strong organizing efforts, which led to a victory in the City Council that put this ballot question before voters, we’re going to count every vote,” Hadden said during Tuesday’s Election Watch Night party. Hadden is the lead sponsor of the Bring Chicago Home resolution.

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Overall, voter turnout for the Illinois primary election was much lower than in previous Presidential Primaries and the 2023 Chicago Muncipal Election. There are more than 1.5 million registered voters and turnout, while the total voter turnout was 289,920. 

“We are still far behind the hourly turnouts we have seen in past Presidential Primaries and even the Municipal Elections. We are a few thousand behind each hour compared to what we have seen in the past,” said Max Bever, spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections. 

The results have varied in the city’s majority Black wards, which are on the South and West sides. For example, the Bring Chicago Home ballot question is trailing in the 3rd, 16th, 17th, 18th, 27th, and 29th wards. Mayor Brandon Johnson won each of these wards in the April 4, 2023, runoff election.

Historically, presidential primary elections have had lower voter turnout. Nationally, 2018 and 2020 saw the highest presidential and midterm election turnout in more than a century, according to FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that examines state, local and federal elections. 

At the moment, it’s unclear what the next move is for Bring Chicago Home ballot question. There’s an option to have the question placed on the November general election ballot, but Hadden said they’ve not yet decided to do so. That move would require Chicago City Council approval. 

“We have built a base and a lot of people have been activated during this moment. So I’m really excited. Even if we are not able to pass this ballot, there are still things that we can do, and we have a group of people willing to get those things passed with us,” said Ahrianna Sodipe, a Greater Grand Crossing resident.

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.