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home : news : north central illinois   April 30, 2016

3/15/2014 5:50:00 AM
No rush for polls: Voter turnout likely to be so-so

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By the NewsTribune staff

Bureau County has one of the hottest races on the March 18 ballot — a four-way race for the GOP nomination for sheriff — but election officials aren’t banking on that race to boost voter turnout.

County clerk Kami Hieronymus said requests for absentee ballots have been “a little slow,” suggesting the sheriff’s contest won’t lift the county’s voter turnout much above the 24 percent enjoyed two years ago.

“If we could get to 25 percent, that would be good,” Hieronymus said. “I don’t know if we’ll get there, but it’ll probably be anywhere from 20 percent to 25 percent this year.”

Sheriff John Thompson’s retirement has drawn five aspirants, four of them Republicans with extensive law enforcement experience.

Voter participation on the GOP ticket could rise on the strength of the sheriff’s race — and, perhaps, a Spring Valley referendum on a sales tax increase — but there isn’t much else assured of packing the polls.

Hieronymus said she has modest expectations regarding primary turnout, noting a reliable disparity between primary elections and general elections. She noted the last mid-term primary in 2010 yielded just 17 percent voter turnout. By contrast, general elections typically yield turnout of 50 percent to 60 percent.

“People don’t always vote in the primaries,” Hieronymus said. “Voter turnout will be about what we usually see in a primary as far as interest level right now.”

Mother Nature won’t help her cause. Preliminary forecasts call for cloud cover and tolerable temperatures (daytime high: 46 degrees) but also a 30 percent chance of rain.

Not helping matters is a governor’s race that increasingly looks settled, at least at the primary phase, dashing any hopes of a statewide push at the March 18 polls. Gov. Pat Quinn is a lock for the Democratic nomination and the well-funded businessman Bruce Rauner appears to have put his three Republican opponents, tainted by campaign problems and/or scandal, in the rearview mirror.

If Bureau County authorities are betting on only modest turnout, expectations are higher in Putnam County. Putnam County clerk Dan Kuhn said is expecting a high turnout at the polls.

“My prediction for the upcoming 2014 general primary election is that 44 percent of the Putnam County voters will turnout to vote,” he said.

Since 1992, the primary election has brought out an average of 39 percent of the voting public in Putnam County, Kuhn said.

“The percentage is normally lower in primary elections as compared to general elections,” he said.

But in this particular primary, Kuhn said the contested races for sheriff and county clerk and recorder should drive up the numbers at the polls.

“There are also some other indicators that point to the higher-than-average voter turnout in the upcoming primary,” Kuhn said. “Absentee ballot requests and early voting numbers thus far have been relatively high. This also points to a higher than average voter turnout which again is the result of competitive races.”

Authorities in Marshall and La Salle counties aren’t as optimistic. Jill Piper, chief deputy at the Marshall County clerk and recorder’s office, said she is expecting a turnout of around 30 percent. She attributes the anticipated low turnout to the lack of contested races and the overall nature of the primary election.

“People don’t like to declare their party,” she said.

La Salle County authorities are banking on turnout to not stray outside its normal range, which, during primary elections, isn’t very good. La Salle County has held within a tight range of 20 percent to 21½ voter turnout over the past several primary elections, including a pitiful 18 percent turnout in 2006. (The one exception was February 2008: Barack Obama’s first run drew 35 percent to the polls.)

County clerk JoAnn Carretto reported 1 percent of registered voters have already cast absentee ballots or voted early, leading her to conclude the county will stay just within average unless interest in Peru’s referendum sets off a spike at the polls.

Peru voters have a controversial question on the makeup of its city council, reducing the eight-member body by two seats. The council currently is comprised of eight aldermen, two per ward; the proposal is to have one alderman per ward plus two at-large aldermen.

“I’m going quite on the conservative side and guessing 21 percent,” Carretto said. “If we go above that, we’ll have Peru to thank for it.”

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, March 15, 2014
Article comment by: METALWORKER

The voting in a primary election will pick up some when Illinois to an individual ballot rather than a party ballot.
If this type of election were held in any other country the US would be up in arms.
US voting regs. get worse every election.
Elections should be free and mandatory. PERIOD. END OF STORY. That and only individuals can contribute a max of $100.00 to a camp..

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