The Chicago Elections Project is a digital history collaboration working to expand access and provide interpretation on the electoral and political history of the city.

In the course of their campaigns, men and women including Jane Byrne, Anton Cermak, Richard J. Daley, William Dawson, and Harold Washington counted votes and delivered precincts. Before his 1983 mayoral run, Washington, a U.S. Congressman, told strategists, “Give me fifty thousand new voters and I’ll run.” Barack Obama, as part of his 1992 work leading Project Vote in Chicago, helped register 140,000 voters with the goal of delivering a sizable Chicago total that would swing Illinois for Democrats in the 1992 presidential election. These politicians knew that counting votes, block by block and district by district, was crucial to winning elections and driving a policy agenda. The most skilled vote-counters and precinct captains could ascend to the top of their organizations, eventually influencing public policy for millions.

This project is working to recapture that basic building block of democracy, elections. Participants are planning, digitizing and visualizing electoral results, and capturing narratives from participants. We will simultaneously document the individuals who made Chicago politics and portray the limits of those individuals and the political system in Chicago.