CHICAGO (Jun. 24)
Voter apathy and alienation were major factors contributing to the victories of Lyndon LaRouche supported candidates Mark Fairchild and Janice Hart in the Illinois Democratic Primary, according to a study of the election commissioned by the American Jewish Committee.
The study, “The LaRouche Victory In Illinois: An Analysis of the 1986 Democratic Election Returns,” was prepared by Northern Illinois University political scientist Robert Albritton. It indicates that low turnout and participation had a profound impact on the outcome of the primary. “These factors,” according to Albritton, “allowed Janice Hart and Mark Fairchild to win nomination on the Democratic ticket with the support of only 6.1 percent and 5.6 percent of the registered voters of Illinois.
LOW TURNOUT ANALYZED
Explaining his findings, he said, “turnout is significant because the smaller the level of turnout, the less it reflects the distribution of popular sentiment and the more the vote responds to idiosyncratic kinds of things.”
Under such conditions, seemingly random factors–ballot position, lack of voter awareness, protest voting and extremist views–can “tip the balance to produce an outcome totally unrepresentative of the electorate as a whole or even the Democratic Party,” Albritton added.
“Perhaps even more important than overall turnout,” he continued, “was the pattern of the voting in specific races. Participation was lowest in the race for Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State, the two contests for statewide office won by LaRouche candidates.”
OTHER FINDINGS CITED
Other important findings of the study were the following:
Very few people voted in favor of the LaRouche program. The great majority of those who voted for LaRouche candidates did not know they were voting for members of an extremist organization and were not aware of the LaRouche platform.
Black voters in the city evidenced very sophisticated voting patterns. They overwhelmingly supported Fairchild and Hart in protest against “regular” Democrats George Sangmeister and Aurelia Pucinski. But when faced with alternatives to both the LaRouche candidates and “regular” Democrats, they voted for other candidates, as in the race for Treasurer, where they split their vote between two other candidates.
Illinois counties with a larger number of family farms voted more heavily for LaRouche candidates Fairchild and Hart than other counties in the state.
Jonathan Levine, midwest regional director of the American Jewish Committee, commenting on the broader implications of the study, said: “Even though a large majority of people did not knowingly vote for the LaRouche candidates, we must all be concerned with the growing frustration many feel toward the established parties and the increasing tendency for voters to simply stay home and opt out of the system.
“Active citizen involvement is crucial to the stability of the American political system. If voters stay away from the polls, the system becomes more vulnerable to extremist groups,” Levine said.