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Election judge Dave McKinney (front, right) stretches out during a break this morning at the Peru Volunteer Ambulance Service building. McKinney said Peru precinct 2 turnout was “pretty decent,” but across the room precinct 1 had yet to tally its first vote 90 minutes after polls opened. Peru’s controversial referendum on reducing the city council from eight seats to six was expected to bolster an otherwise lackluster election in La Salle County, but Peru’s early turnout was uneven at best.
NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
Polls throughout the area remain open until 7 p.m.
If election officials were hoping a quarter of registered voters would show at the polls today, they are likely to be disappointed.
Early turnout at the polls ranged from lackluster to dismal, even in municipalities with races and referendums that might have sparked voter interest.
Princeton was expected to have relatively good turnout with a four-way contest for sheriff on the GOP ballot, though the Democratic candidate is unopposed. Even on the Republican side, however, the race has sparked no early rush to the polls.
Princeton precinct 7, located on Church Street, produced 11 voters as of 7:30 a.m.
“Not a Democrat yet.” said election official Richard Kollasch, “although there’s not much for them to vote for — most of their races are uncontested.”
He said primaries typically don’t bring out as many voters as general elections; but he expected a decent turnout throughout the day.
Turnout was better at the Tiskilwa fire station, where about two dozen voters showed in the first hour of voting. Election judges expected higher turnout later in the day, though none of the officials in Princeton or Tiskilwa reported a 17-year-old voter, allowable under a new state law.
Bureau County clerk Kami Hieronymus had predicted modest turnout of no more than 25 percent, citing slow absentee/early vote participation and limited interest in Spring Valley’s referendum to increase the sales tax to fund street repairs.
As forecast, turnout in Hall precincts 1, 2, 8 and 10 (Spring Valley City Hall) were paltry.
Election judge Cathy Baltikauski said only 26 people voted in the first 90 minutes. Based on what she’s heard, there was no real reason for people to come to the polls.
“It’s a primary,” she shrugged. “Most people don’t want to declare their party affiliation and there’s no hot ballot item to bring people out.”
The other notable referendum was in Peru, where voters are being asked whether to shrink the city council from eight aldermen to six (including two at-large posts). The referendum generated a number of letters to the editor and political ads, but voters so far have reacted with a yawn.
Voting was slow in the first 1½ hours of polling this morning. Election judges reported 43 votes cast by 7:25 a.m. at Peru precincts 8 and 9, both in St. John’s Lutheran Church.
“Usually by 6 o’clock we have a line,” election judge Bob Lamboley said, citing a dim forecast of about 20 percent turnout.
At Peru precincts 4 and 7, both located at Peru Eagles Club, a total of 16 voters had showed by 7:15 a.m.
“It’s only been an hour,” election judge Janet Sobkowiak noted, somewhat optimistically, “hopefully, it will get better.”
If not, La Salle County’s end-of-day turnout could flirt with the decade-worst 18 percent recorded in 2006. County clerk JoAnn Carretto forecast 21 percent turnout, but that was predicated on the Peru referendum offsetting limited expectations in the rest of the county.
Election authorities can be forgiven for once thinking the obstacle today might be weather and not voter apathy. A relentlessly bad winter figured to linger into Election Day and thwart interest in a governor’s race featuring a four-way race for the Republican nomination.
That’s not how things were playing out, however. With temperatures inching toward a spring-like 55 degrees, voters aren’t being holed up by Old Man Winter but rather by their own lack of interest.
Voting in Mendota was predictably slow this morning with two precincts reporting 13 voters by 8 a.m. and two other precincts coming in at 22. One judge said the negative campaigning may have turned off voters for this primary.
Utica typically draws the best turnout in La Salle County; but not today. Election judge Mary Pawlak reported a “very slow” 29 voters at Utica’s two precincts, both located at the village hall, by 7:30 a.m.
“We have absolutely nothing,” she said. “We have no races or referendums. Anybody who’s got a referendum is doing better than us.”
Turnout was worse in La Salle, where election judges at seven precincts each counted voters in the single digits.
“I think (the governor’s race will generate) more interest than anything else, but not enough to do much of anything,” said election judge Ray Miklavcic at La Salle precinct 2 (VFW Hall), where judges drummed their fingers for 40 minutes before receiving their first voter.
And as alderman Jerry Reynolds observed of primary elections, “Voter turnout is usually low in this community.”
Turnout is historically better in Putnam County, but that wasn’t the case early today. Despite two contested races — one for sheriff and one for county clerk and recorder — people weren’t facing lines at polling places in Putnam County.
“We’re very slow,” said Karen Ossola, election judge at the Granville 2 precinct.
In the first hour and a half of voting, only 14 voters had cast ballots, although Ossola noted they did have some absentee voting, too.
“People don’t like to declare,” she said, “so they don’t vote.”
Next door, at the Granville 4 precinct, turnout was only slightly better. That precinct had 25 voters, out of the 653 people who were registered to vote, election judges said. If the trend holds, it would dash the expectations of Putnam County clerk Dan Kuhn, who anticipated 44 percent turnout.
Marshall County authorities were less optimistic, projecting turnout of around 30 percent.