BEC, McLean County Clerk Expect Slightly Higher Voter Turnout
Consolidated local elections typically produce a lower voter turnout than even-year elections like presidential cycles. Normally, only about 20% of registered voters cast ballots.
For Tuesday’s election, the Bloomington Election Commission and the McLean County Clerk’s office project turnout could run a little higher, possibly between 25-30%.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Bloomington Election Commission
What are the reasons? BEC Executive Director Tim Mitchell said he thinks there is some carryover from the divisive November election.
“In Georgia this past week, they passed a new law to impact voters down there, which has made national headlines,” said Mitchell. “The whole concept of voting is still in the forefront of people’s minds.”
Mitchell said he’s cautiously optimistic voter turnout will be higher than in years past based on the amount of mail-in ballots. Mitchell said in the last consolidated election, the BEC received 184 vote-by-mail ballots. This time around, it’s already received 1,200 mail-in ballots.
Bloomington also has seen over 1,600 early voters, including a rush of 360 on Monday.
“When we did the presidential election back in November, we had 15,000. I think people have gotten a little more accustomed to vote-by-mail during that election cycle,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said this is the most mail-in ballots he has seen in a consolidated election. But as far as managing the increased mail-in ballots and early voting, he said this election is a walk in the park compared to November.
“From our perspective in the office, it has been very manageable,” he said.
County Clerk’s Office
In 2017, McLean County saw turnout of about 18%, but that might go up on Tuesday.
“If you look at the Normal precincts, you can see that their turnout was a lot higher, often 40+% in some precincts. So we expect that in Normal precincts, it will be about the same, perhaps a bit higher, because of all the contested races in Normal. But countywide, many are uncontested,” said McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael. “I would guess a similar 18-25% turnout countywide, excluding Bloomington; and a similar to a bit higher turnout for Normal.”
Michael said the county was close to 80% turnout in some places in November, with the presidential race on the ballot.
“Sadly, there's no comparison on these off year, we call them the consolidated elections, because the turnout is usually expected to be very low,” said Michael. “We hear more talk. You see a lot of the candidates out. ... So we would just be guessing, but we expect a little bit higher turnout.”
Michael said she'd also guess that the rural areas will see lighter voter turnout.
“In some spots in the rural areas, there are some contested races with the school boards, especially, and that might bring out a few more people,” she said.
Another determining factor in projecting turnout is the office -- like BEC -- has seen much heavier mail-in ballots.
“Four years ago we had about 300 ballots come in, and we're already at almost 1,300,” said Michael. “So you can see the big difference there.”
About 1,700 McLean County voters had cast ballots as of midday Monday, including both vote-by-mail and in-person early voters at the Bloomington Center for Performing Arts.
“Vote by mail has quadrupled from 2017, but early voting has been very slow over at BCPA. We started out with four voters and we went up to 13. Of course we started 40 days early, and people like to wait because there’s a lot of decisions to be made,” said Michael.
She said the BCPA did see a record in early voters, around 200 people came out on Friday. Michael expected even more to show up Monday for the last day of early voting, due to the nice weather.
“Turnout is always the question. We just expect it to be about as usual with perhaps a little bit more than usual because of the many candidates running,” said Michael, adding her office also has gotten quite a bit of calls regarding write-ins.
“The candidates list of write-ins are posted in each polling place. The judges have those lists because by statute you have to provide them if a voter asks,” she said.