BLOOMINGTON — Despite collecting the most total votes among the three candidates vying in Tuesday's election to lead the city, Bloomington Mayor-elect Mboka Mwilambwe was the top vote-getter in only two of the city's nine wards.
In the to-be-finalized tally of all 52 precincts reporting, Mwilambwe pulled in 4,455 votes, or 38.71% of the total 11,508 votes cast for mayor. Mike Straza earned 4,248 votes, or 36.91%, and Jackie Gunderson garnered 2,780 votes, or 24.16%.
The candidate with the most total votes, inclusive of those cast through early voting, by mail and on Election Day, is deemed the winner of the race.
Unofficial election results published by the Bloomington Board of Elections and analyzed by The Pantagraph show Mwilambwe as the candidate with the highest total votes in Wards 2 and 3, where he earned 359 total votes and 899 total votes, respectively.
To calculate those totals, The Pantagraph added the total votes each candidate earned in each precinct, then added together the precinct totals for each of the precincts that make up each ward.
Straza, who trailed Mwilambwe by 207 total city-wide votes, was the top vote-getter in Wards 1 (368 total votes), 5 (473 total votes), 8 (728 total votes) and 9 (856 total votes), results show.
Gunderson, who finished behind Straza, was the top vote-getter in Wards 4 (590 total votes), 6 (218 total votes) and 7 (273) results show.
While the votes by ward have no impact on Mwilambwe's status as mayor-elect, they do offer insight into where in the city his 4,455 votes came from.
The figures also tell a story of a tight race that played out in the wards, one that's exemplified by blowouts and close calls.
In Ward 4 — an area that spans north and east of downtown Bloomington — Gunderson beat out Straza by 188 total votes and Mwilambwe by 82 total votes, while in Ward 8, Straza scooped Gunderson by 433 total votes and Mwilambwe by 465 total votes.
The margins between Straza and Mwilambwe were especially tight in two wards that border Mwilambwe's home Ward 3, and that are heavy in subdivisions and retail corridors.
In Ward 5, Straza earned five more total votes than Mwilambwe. In Ward 9, Straza earned six more total votes than Mwilambwe.
Gunderson edged out both in Ward 6 — the area includes most of downtown Bloomington — sneaking by Mwilambwe with 12 more total votes and by Straza with 13 more total votes.
The candidates' total votes by precinct tell a similar story.
Straza took home the most total votes in 22 different precincts, while Mwilambwe was the top vote-getter in 18 different precincts and Gunderson had the most total votes in 11 precincts.
Mwilambwe and Gunderson tied for the most total votes — 138 — in Bloomington precinct 22.
BEC Executive Director Tim Mitchell in an interview said the figures suggest that voters across the city's wards were more engaged than in other consolidated election years.
"If you pay attention to city politics, you probably got a little more interested in this one," Mitchell said, adding that municipal elections featuring a mayor's race generally translate into higher turnout.
That was mostly the case this year, which saw 11,508 Bloomington voters cast a ballot for one of the mayoral candidates. In 2017, the last time a mayoral election was held, 10,752 ballots were cast for a mayoral candidate.
For Mwilambwe, 3,410 votes of his total votes came on Election Day alone, while 618 came through early voting and 427 were cast via mail-in ballot.
Straza earned 3,457 votes on Election Day, 434 through early voting and 357 through mail-in ballots. Gunderson garnered 1,969 votes on Election Day, 577 through early voting and 234 by mail-in ballots.
In terms of overall turnout, Bloomington recorded a 21.7% turnout rate, with 11,559 total ballots cast out of 53,188 registered voters. In 2017, the city recorded a 21.69% turnout rate with 10,812 ballots cast out of 49,849 registered voters.
"More ballots came in and obviously there were more voters, but statistically the turnout was about the same as 2017," Mitchell said.
PHOTOS: Bloomington and Normal cast ballots
Contact Timothy Eggert at (309) 820-3276. Follow him on Twitter: @TimothyMEggert