Low Voter Turnout on Tuesday

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
County clerks in the Illinois Valley all were disappointed with Tuesday’s voter turnout, with some reporting their worst totals in years.

Putnam County voters can usually be counted on to fill the ballot boxes, but this year turnout didn’t quite reach 15 percent. That’s less than half Putnam County’s average turnout.

“It was pretty bleak,” Putnam County clerk Dan Kuhn said. “All precincts were slow.

“Since I’ve been in office, this is the lowest turnout I’ve ever had.”

Kuhn attributed the low participation to a lack of contested races, save for Granville. The village’s precinct 2 posted a respectable 23 percent turnout, but otherwise voter choices and enthusiasm were lacking. Hennepin is usually one of Kuhn’s most reliable precincts but this year drew just 15.3 percent to the polls. Magnolia drew 17.5 percent for what turned out to be a contest of write-ins.

Tuesday’s dismal total might well be a record low. Kuhn said he researched odd-year elections dating back to 1995 and the previous low mark was 22 percent.

In Bureau County, clerk Kami Hieronymus said the voter turnout was less than she, too, had expected.

“I was expecting 25 percent and we only had about 19 percent,” Hieronymus said. 

While Bureau County had no issues with actual voting, they were short-staffed in some precincts when it came to election judges. 

“We had a few judges get sick and drop out throughout the weekend, maybe five to six,” said Hieronymus. They had to do last minute fill-ins, which she said was not ideal when they were minimally staffed to begin with.

“I would just like to get it out there that we are looking for more people willing to serve, even on the slow days,” she said.

Both counties typically outdraw La Salle County in voter turnout. That wasn’t the case this election, but nobody in Ottawa is uncorking champagne in celebration.

About one in five La Salle County residents went to the polls Tuesday — a total that fell short of the county clerk’s meager expectations.

La Salle County reported 21 percent voter turnout, though a closer inspection showed wildly uneven participation.

Voters in Utica and Oglesby stormed the polls to settle mayoral contests, posting respective turnout of 44 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

But those hotspots were offset by dismal returns throughout La Salle County. La Salle, in particular, had one of its worst showings in years. With only one contested aldermanic race (in Ward 2), La Salle voters largely stayed home and failed to crack 8 percent turnout.

“Doesn’t that stink?” Carretto said. “I was shooting for between 22 percent and 25 percent, so I missed.”

Carretto said she was particularly disappointed in totals recorded in Streator, which had a big school referendum, and in Marseilles, which settled a three-way race for mayor.

“When you have a contested mayoral race, I honestly thought there’d be bigger turnout,” she lamented. As for Streator, “If it’s going to affect my pocketbook, I’m going to vote.”

Other notable results:
- Peru turnout came to 26 percent. An analysis of precinct totals suggested the Ward 2 race between Tom Payton and Rodney Perez drew the most participation.

- Waltham Elementary failed to pass a $7 million bond issue to consolidate its two campuses, but the issue was a big draw both in Utica’s two precincts and in Waltham’s, where turnout was 47.6 percent, best in La Salle County.

- Ottawa turnout was nearly 30 percent. A six-way race for city council helped lure voters, but the big draw appeared to be the hotly-contested race for Ottawa Township High School’s board of education.

- Only one precinct outside Oglesby and Utica-Waltham posted turnout of 40 percent or higher. The stray hotspot was Naplate, which had a three-way race for two village board seats.

- One in four precincts posted turnout in the single digits. La Salle’s nine precincts were among the least-attended; only one (located at the high-rise) cracked 10 percent turnout.

Source: News Tribune