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“Participatory Budgeting and Latino Voter Turn-Out”

Author: Alexander Diaz

Department: UIC Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement

Advisors: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, IPCE

Marcus Daniels, Graduate Mentor, IPCE

Abstract: In recent municipal Chicago elections, lower voter turnout has consistently occurred, especially within Latino communities. Despite the Latino population being a third of the city population, it has the lowest record number in voter turnout. The 12th Ward is located on the southwest side, is one of the Hispanic majority wards where Latinos make up most of the district population and had the lowest record in voter turnout in the 2023 municipal election. Although, on the northwest side, the 35th Ward, another Latino ward, had a similar story, with a lower turnout in each election cycle until 2015. The introduction of Participatory Budgeting (PB) and Community Engagement projects to involve residents in their community has led to higher voter turnout for the ward. Therefore, this study is based on a previous ward office that established Participatory Budgeting and over time has increased voter turnout in the ward and if this correlation can happen in the 12th Ward. Furthermore, the study is limited to only the 12th and 35th ward and findings are not generalizable. There is a strong correlation with voter turnout and Participatory Budgeting, there are also 11 other wards that offer this program and share similar trend. In fact, findings indicate that since the election of the 35th ward alderman in 2015, voter turnout in the ward has increased. These findings are significant because the 12th ward is one the few wards in the southside to incorporate PB in hopes of having more residents participate more in the municipal elections cycle. Since taking office, the 12th ward alderwoman has taken the initiative to introduced Participatory Budgeting and partnered with Mijente’s co-governance team to introduce the Forward Talks initiative to get the community involved and increase participation in community engagement programs.

Keywords: Participatory Budgeting, Community Engagement