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Mark Johnson of Dalzell casts his vote Monday at the Spring Valley City Clerk’s Office. Sandy Hoos, an election judge from Seatonville, said there has been a large turnout for early voting in Spring Valley. “Forty-four people today is huge for an election like this for early voting,” she said. “It’s comparable to a presidential election.”
Mayoral races in Peru and Spring Valley — as well as the Hall High School question — have more than a few residents voting early. County clerks in the Illinois Valley reported Monday that early voting has been scant in most of the Illinois Valley but with two big exceptions: Spring Valley and Peru. Bureau County clerk Kami Hieronymus reported 100 early votes cast last week at Spring Valley City Hall, an early-voting station established in addition to the clerks’ office in Princeton. By contrast, Hieronymus said, county-wide votes cast in Princeton totaled about 60. Hieronymus said she wasn’t surprised. Spring Valley and Hall Township have two of the hotter races in Bureau County — a three-way race for mayor and a new school referendum for Hall High — and she fully expected a disparity between Hall Township and the rest of Bureau County in early voting. “You could just tell where it was going to be heavy,” she said. Early voting continues through Saturday. Each of the area’s four county clerks will have morning hours for early voting and grace-period registration. Absentee voting continues in some cases through Monday. Judging from the early voting, however, there will be only pockets with heavy voter participation. La Salle County clerk JoAnn Carretto reported 172 early votes cast. Coupled with grace registration and absentee ballots the total has swelled to 623. That figure suggests a typical off-year spring election, which is to say, much lower turnout than what was reported at the previous presidential election. Even last spring’s presidential primary — a disappointment in terms of voter turnout — drew just 1,099 in early-absentee votes. Carretto said she couldn’t rule out the possibility that the countywide sales tax referendum is driving up voter interest, but she said the evidence suggests Peru’s contests are the real draw. Peru has a four-way race for mayor that further includes a rematch from 2009 pitting incumbent Scott Harl against former mayor Don Baker. Peru Township races also seem to be driving up spring numbers that typically disappoint. “I’m going to say I am surprised,” Carretto admitted. “I think it’s a combination of township and races in the cities that’s giving it a little bit of a boost.” Where there are few contested races, early voting was virtually nil. Putnam County clerk Dan Kuhn reported just two early votes cast along with one grace-period registration and 58 absentees ballots. “It’s going to be a low turnout election, that’s for sure,” Kuhn said, who could cite only a contested township highway post when asked for races of interest. Melody Weber, Marshall County’s new clerk, said she also expected a significant drop-off from the Nov. 6 general election, when races drew more than 70 percent of registered voters. Not this spring. Weber said she counted fewer than 30 early votes cast. “It’s nothing to brag about, that’s for sure,” she said.