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WGLT's reporting on the November 2020 election cycle.

Election Officials: Indecision Slows Early Voting In McLean County

Vote sign
Ken Chui
Early voting is available at the McLean County Clerk's Office and the Bloomington Election Commission through March 16.

Undecided voters are keeping early voter participation lower than election officials in McLean County had hoped.

Bloomington Election Commission Executive Director Paul Shannon said his office hopes to reach the 50% voter turnout they had in the 2016 presidential primary.

“We are doing what we do every election,” Shannon said. “We are posting in the same places, the same advertisements. We haven’t changed anything we are doing.

“I think people haven’t made up their mind yet.”

The BEC reports 300 voters have cast ballots in its offices since early voting began Feb. 6. An additional 154 Bloomington residents voted at Eastland Mall during the first of three weekend early voting sessions.

The commission reports it has received 415 mail-in ballots from out of more than 1,000 ballots issued.

“I’m not surprised, but we were hoping to have more activity before the actual Election Day,” Shannon said.

The McLean County clerk’s office, which oversees elections outside of Bloomington, also reports light turnout, particularly among early voters.

Clerk Kathy Michael said her office has had 391 voters cast ballots early since Feb. 6, including early voting at Eastland Mall held Saturday and Sunday.

“That’s expected this early as so many voters haven’t made up their minds,” Michael said in an email, adding that mail-in balloting has had a better response than previous presidential election years. She said her office has received abut 400 mail-in ballots from nearly 1,400 the office has mailed.

Michael said mail-in ballots from overseas are coming back in larger numbers than expected.

McLean County also saw 50% turnout in the 2016 primary. She said her office is preparing for a larger turnout.

“With the many Democratic presidential candidates, I would lean toward a higher than usual turnout for this primary,” Michael said. “We have as many election judges for the primary as we have for the general (election), in anticipation of a larger than average turnout.”

McLean County budgeted additional money for elections last year at Michael's request in anticipation of higher turnout and concerns about the potential for long lines on Election Day. 

Aside from the crowded presidential primary, Democrats have a primary in the 13th Congressional District, where Republican Rodney Davis is the incumbent, and two contested races on the County Board. Republicans have primaries for an Illinois House seat, county auditor and a five-way primary to challenge Dick Durbin for U.S Senate.

Early voting will be available at the county clerk and BEC offices at 115 E. Washington St. until March 16, the day before the election.

Eastland Mall will host early voting Feb. 29-March 1 and March 7-8 from 12-6 p.m.

Early voting on the Illinois State University campus starts next week. ISU’s Bone Student Center will host early voting March 2-6 and March 9-13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Early voting will be available at Watterson Towers March 2-7 and March 9-13 from 12-7 p.m.

Primary Election Day in Illinois is March 17.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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