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Live Blog: Election Day in McLean County

Published April 4, 2023 at 7:00 AM CDT

The latest Election Day coverage from the WGLT Newsroom, including results and reaction from the candidates in Bloomington-Normal. Includes Unit 5 and city council races.

See our results tracker for Unit 5, District 87, and Heartland Community College. Those races include votes from two or more election jurisdictions.

Unit 5

Pro-referendum Unit 5 school board candidates win election

Posted April 4, 2023 at 10:49 PM CDT

Candidates from both of the informal slates seeking four seats on the Unit 5 school board said the heated race left them exhausted, though their reasons differ.

Vote totals as of late tonight indicate incumbents Amy Roser and Kelly Pyle, along with newcomers Alex Williams and Mark Adams, are slated to win those four seats. Together, they comprised an informal slate that was pro-referendum and endorsed by the Unit Five Education Association teachers’ union.

Roser was the top vote-getter with 16.4%, followed by Pyle, Williams and Adams, with 100% precincts reporting.

“Overall, I’m very exhausted,” Adams said. “I was very dismayed with the amount of misinformation coming from one of the two major political parties for the county… I think that was probably the part I wasn’t expecting to be that bad. But I know what the political climate is right now, so I’m not totally surprised. I’m just, like, more glad that we had a lot of positive reception.”

Dennis Frank was one of four candidates who ran on an informal Students First slate, largely united by a shared campaign value that the referendum was not a solution to a growing deficit in the district’s education fund. Frank ran with Mollie Emery, Brad Wurth and Amee Jada; none appeared to have a viable chance at snagging a seat as of late tonight with 100% precincts reporting.

Emery won the most votes among Students First candidates, with 10% of the vote, but she still came up short for a seat.

“I think we ran a good race. I think it’s unfortunate that we voted in the same school board that we had before; Unit 5 is in a mess, I truly believe that,” Frank said. “I’m probably joining a lot of other people and I’ll probably leave the state of Illinois. That’s where my next step is — meaning you can’t stay here and hope for better things. We just keep voting the same way.”

On the top row, Amy Roser, Kelly Pyle, Alex Williams and Mark Adams are running as a group. On the bottom row, Brad Wurth, Mollie Emery, Amee Jada, and Dennis Frank are running together. A ninth candidate, Steve Mackowiak, declined a WGLT interview and said he would let "the two slates … battle this one out."
On the top row, Amy Roser, Kelly Pyle, Alex Williams and Mark Adams are running as a group. On the bottom row, Brad Wurth, Mollie Emery, Amee Jada, and Dennis Frank are running together. A ninth candidate, Steve Mackowiak, declined a WGLT interview and said he would let "the two slates … battle this one out."

Unit 5

Voters approve Unit 5 tax referendum on second try

Posted April 4, 2023 at 10:39 PM CDT

The Unit 5 tax referendum won approval tonight, with 59.3% of the vote and all precincts reporting. Strong turnout appeared to be a key factor in the referendum’s passage.

The referendum was the biggest issue on today’s ballot. Its most vocal supporters included a pro-referendum slate of school board candidates and groups like the McLean County Democrats, organized labor, both Twin City mayors, and some business leaders. The McLean County Republicans and an anti-referendum slate of school board candidates have led opposition.

The referendum is aimed at addressing Unit 5’s $12 million budget deficit. It would raise the property tax rate in the key education fund, while bringing down the overall tax rate within a few years.

This was Unit 5’s second attempt to pass the measure. 53% of voters rejected it in November. In response, the school board laid out two years of budget cuts that they said could be avoided only if the referendum passed, and they put it back on the ballot. The first year of those cuts is already set in motion, including sports and clubs for junior high schoolers, sports teams for freshmen, and fifth-grade band and orchestra.

Referendum supporters said they thought the cuts would get the attention of people who voted “no” in November or didn’t vote at all, hopeful for a bigger turnout than a typical off-year local election.

Unit 5 is McLean County’s largest school district, with over 12,000 students.

Heartland Community College

Heartland board candidates await the Bloomington vote

Posted April 4, 2023 at 10:04 PM CDT

McLean, Livingston, DeWitt, Logan and Tazewell counties have all counted their votes, but three candidates hoping for a seat on the Heartland Community College Board of Trustees will have to wait a bit longer.

Voters in those five counties, plus the City of Bloomington, have separate election authorities — and all play a part in electing Heartland’s board.

Incumbent Mary Campbell has a strong lead, with over 40% of votes counted thus far. Cecelia Long also hopes to keep her seat, with David Selzer challenging. Long and Selzer each have just shy of 30% of the vote.

Follow the results on our tracker.


All results in for McLean County, but not for Bloomington

Posted April 4, 2023 at 10:00 PM CDT

The McLean County clerk's office now says 100% of its precincts are now reporting, before 10 p.m.

But many races cannot yet be called, because the Bloomington Election Commission is still counting votes. Its website is showing only partial results, three hours after polls closed.

Those key races include the Unit 5 tax referendum. The "yes" votes have led all night.

The Bloomington Election Commission tells WGLT we should expect 100% reporting by around 10:30 p.m.


Cody Hendricks claims victory in Bloomington City Council Ward 6

Posted April 4, 2023 at 9:56 PM CDT

Bloomington City Council candidate Cody Hendricks has claimed victory in Ward 6 over his opponent, Jordan Baker. Hendricks was leading with 58% of the vote with partial results in.

Hendricks teaches civics at Olympia High School in Stanford in western McLean County. Hendricks got his start in government while in college. Hendricks served four years on the Pekin City Council starting in 2011 when he was a student at Eureka College.

Ward 6 includes all of downtown Bloomington and some neighborhoods to the east and west.

District 87

District 87 race entirely up for grabs

Posted April 4, 2023 at 9:41 PM CDT

A razor-thin margin separates four candidates vying for three seats on the District 87 school board.

Early voters had no clear answer, and as Election Day votes begin to be counted in Bloomington, Mark Wylie, Veleda Harvey, Cathy Lust and Courtney Turnbull are separated by less than two percentage points.

Incumbent board president Wylie is seeking another term, as is Harvey, who was appointed to the board in June 2022. Turnbull and Lust are first-time candidates.

The candidate who comes in fourth could still gain a spot on the board. The district is accepting applications to fill a vacancy created by Fitzgerald Samedy’s resignation. All candidates said they would likely seek appointment if they lost the election--and they'll have three days to get it done.

District 87 school board candidates, clockwise from top left, Mark Wylie, Veleda Harvey, Cathy Lust and Courtney Turnbull.
Ryan Denham
District 87 school board candidates, clockwise from top left, Mark Wylie, Veleda Harvey, Cathy Lust and Courtney Turnbull.


Tiritilli concedes in Normal Town Council race

Posted April 4, 2023 at 9:32 PM CDT

Normal Town Council candidate Marc Tiritilli has conceded defeat.

"I'd like to thank all of my supporters. I was honored to have provided you with a choice," he said on Facebook just before 9:30 p.m. tonight. "We are privileged to live within a system where everyone has a chance to be heard and the transfer of authority takes place smoothly. I hope you will join me in congratulating the winners of this election. Let us all work together to make Normal's future the best it can be."

Tiritilli previously ran unsuccessfully for mayor twice.


Lorenz and Byars confident with their leads in Normal

Posted April 4, 2023 at 8:58 PM CDT

Town of Normal candidates Kathleen Lorenz and Andy Byars have high confidence they and incumbent Karyn Smith will win.

The McLean County clerk's website shows all precincts reporting. The three have substantial leads over incumbent Stan Nord, Karl Sila, and Marc Tiritilli.

Byars, who raised more than $30,000 in his first run for elective office, says he believes voters responded to a message of optimism. Lorenz, also an incumbent, says she thinks voters embraced their message that the existing council is not perfect, but the general direction of the town is a good one.

A mix of moderate Republicans, Democrats, and non-aligned supporters celebrated with Lorenz and Byars at Stave in Uptown Normal.

Normal Town Council candidates Kathleen Lorenz, right, and Andy Byars (center) at Stave in Uptown Normal tonight.
Charlie Schlenker
Normal Town Council candidates Kathleen Lorenz, right, and Andy Byars (center) at Stave in Uptown Normal tonight.


Much heavier turnout than the 2019 election

Posted April 4, 2023 at 8:49 PM CDT

In Normal and the other non-Bloomington parts of McLean County ... turnout is (relatively) high.

With about 93% of precincts reporting, turnout in McLean County is already at 26.5%. Over 16,000 people have voted. Again, that does not include those living in Bloomington. (We have two election authorities, which can make election night ... confusing for observers.)

McLean County's turnout in 2019 (the last non-mayoral local election like this) was just 13.3%, when 8,400 people voted.

Election officials were expecting higher-than-average turnout due to the high-profile Unit 5 tax referendum and school board races.

Turnout was 10.7% in 2015, and 11.6% in 2011.

Unit 5

Pro-referendum Unit 5 school board slate is off to early lead

Posted April 4, 2023 at 8:28 PM CDT

The pro-referendum slate of Unit 5 school board candidates is out to an early lead as results come in.

Not many Bloomington votes have been reported just yet. But in Normal and the rest of McLean County, the pro-referendum slate is out in front.

As of 8:25 p.m., with about 74% of precincts reporting in McLean County: Amy Roser, Kelly Pyle, Alex Williams and Mark Adams are leading. Roser is the top vote-getter with 16.8%.

Mollie Emery, Brad Wurth, Amee Jada, Dennis Frank and Steve Mackowiak all trail with less than 10% of the vote.

"Yes" votes are also leading on the referendum itself. As of 8:25 p.m. with partial results only, 60% of votes were "yes."


Candidates gather with supporters waiting for results to come in

Posted April 4, 2023 at 7:42 PM CDT

Unit 5 Referendum

Early voters in McLean County are a big "yes" on the Unit 5 referendum

Posted April 4, 2023 at 7:14 PM CDT

The McLean County clerk's office has already posted the first real results — a combination of early voters and vote-by-mail ballots. It's about 4,500 votes, all from people living in Normal or rural McLean County. No Bloomington voters.

62% of those voted "yes" on the Unit 5 tax referendum.

That far outpaces how the Unit 5 referendum performed in November among early voters and vote-by-mail folks. In November, just 50.7% of those early/mail voters said yes. (The referendum failed in November.)

LOTS of vote-counting left tonight. Stay tuned.


Polls are closed — and the waiting game begins

Posted April 4, 2023 at 7:00 PM CDT

And polls are now closed! (Unless you were already in line at 7 p.m., in which case you can still vote).

Votes will begin showing up on the McLean County clerk and Bloomington Election Commission websites in the next hour. The first numbers you’ll see will be early votes and vote-by-mail, followed by today’s polling-place voters later in the evening.

McLean County lucked out again today by avoiding some potentially severe weather that could have depressed turnout with after-work/school voters.

For Unit 5 and District 87 results (with multiple election authorities), check out our tracker.


Early voting and mail-in ballots will show up first tonight

Posted April 4, 2023 at 2:15 PM CDT

As you’re watching results come in tonight online, keep in mind which votes will be reported first.

Both the McLean County clerk’s office and the Bloomington Election Commission say that results from early voting and mail-in ballots will be the first numbers reported on their websites tonight. After that, both election authorities will report out polling-place voting numbers as they come in.

Polling Places

Voters at Normal precinct say Unit 5 is their top issue

Posted April 4, 2023 at 10:48 AM CDT
As of about 9:30 a.m., there were 65 voters so far at Normal Precinct 15 and a line of six people. An election judge says that's "not too bad" for this time of day in a municipal election.
Charlie Schlenker
As of about 9:30 a.m., there were 65 voters so far at Normal Precinct 15 and a line of six people. An election judge says that's "not too bad" for this time of day in a municipal election.

The Unit 5 referendum is pulling many voters to the polls today.

That was the case this morning at First United Methodist Church in Normal, near the Illinois State University campus. That's Normal Precinct 14.

ISU senior nursing major Hannah Sloan said she was most interested in the Unit 5 issues on the ballot – including the referendum. Sloan lives with two education majors.

“They talk all the time about how much Unit 5 needs the extra funding to be able to keep open the schools. I think education of our kids is really important,” Sloan told WGLT. “Civic engagement is really important, to use your voice and express who want to be representing you.”

Also voting at that polling place was ISU professor Maura Toro-Morn. She said voting is one of the “most sacred civic duties that we have in this country.”

Toro-Morn said she voted yes on the referendum.

“As an educator, I believe that we need to be invested in the future of our children and our education. I feel very strongly (about that) and I supported members of the (school) board that support the referendum. That worries me a great deal. We want to have an educated population that can weigh in on the future on all of the political issues we’re facing as a community and as a society.”

Another voter this morning, Ralph Weisheit, also teaches at ISU. He was most interested in voting on the Unit 5 referendum and for the Normal Town Council.

As for the Town Council, he said: “It’s making some really big decisions about what that Uptown area is gonna look like. And I think it also needs to be a Town Council that is not combative. They can disagree but not be disagreeable. Those are the kinds of things I was looking for in candidates.”

Polls are open until 7 p.m. tonight.

Early Voting

9,000+ people voted early before Election Day

Posted April 4, 2023 at 8:06 AM CDT

Over 9,000 people in McLean County (including Bloomington) already have cast their ballots before polls opened today.

That includes 5,810 people who voted by mail, and another 3,195 who voted early in person. That's according to the latest tallies through Monday from the McLean County Clerk's office and Bloomington Election Commission.

The last time we had an election like this was 2019, when turnout was just 12% of registered voters. That was about 13,173 voters.

Election officials said they expected higher-than-average turnout today due to high-profile races for school boards and the Unit 5 tax referendum.

Voter Access

Connect Transit buses are free on Election Day

Posted April 4, 2023 at 7:48 AM CDT

If you need a lift to the polling place today, you can ride Connect Transit buses for free.

Connect Transit has suspended fare collection on all public transportation services in Bloomington-Normal on Election Day. Connect Transit and Connect Mobility will waive fares to reduce barriers to voting caused by lack of transportation.

Fare collection will resume on Wednesday, April 5, 2023.

Election Integrity

Attorney general assigns teams to monitor today's election

Posted April 4, 2023 at 7:39 AM CDT

Attorney General Kwame Raoul says more than 140 teams of assistant attorneys general and investigators from his office will monitor today's consolidated election throughout Illinois to ensure that voters’ rights are protected and polling places are accessible.

“The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans. This is why my office will be monitoring polling places to ensure that right is protected,” Raoul said. “Voters who feel their voting rights have been violated or who have witnessed concerning behavior should immediately report it to my office or local law enforcement.”

Raoul urged voters to call his office if they encounter suspected improper or illegal activity. Central Illinois voters can call (866) 559-6812 (TTY 1-877-844-5461).

Raoul reminded voters of some of their basic voting rights:

  • Voters have the right to vote if they are in line when the polls close at 7 p.m. or at any other time between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Election Day (10 ILCS 5/17-1).
  • If a voter makes a mistake or “spoils” a paper ballot and the voter has not cast the ballot, the voter has the right to receive a replacement ballot (10 ILCS 5/17-11).
  • If a voter cannot read, has trouble understanding English, or has a disability, that voter has the right to request voting assistance from anyone other than his or her employer, an agent of his or her employer, or an officer or agent of his or her union (10 ILCS 5/17-14).
  • Voters have the right to take unpaid time from work to vote, but no more than two successive hours, as long as they have applied with their employer before Election Day. The employer may set the time of day (10 ILCS 5/17-15).
  • No one is allowed to try to influence a voter within 100 feet of the polling place (10 ILCS 5/17-29).
  • Under Illinois law, it is a crime to prevent a person from voting or registering to vote using intimidation, force, threat or deception (10 ILCS 5/29-4).
Polling Places

How to find your polling place in Illinois

Posted April 4, 2023 at 6:00 AM CDT

After all those TV ads and all those mailers, Election Day is finally here. Polls are open today from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You can find your polling place by plugging your address into the State Board of Elections website.

If you live in Bloomington want to find out which ward you live in, check the city's website.

If you want to see which school district you live in, you can check the Unit 5 or District 87 map. Unit 5 is the larger district, with District 87 as a "donut hole" in much of Bloomington.