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Early Voting Expected To Pick Up In McLean County

Vote sign
Ken Chui
Early voting is underway in McLean County.

Less than 200 McLean County residents cast ballots during the first week of early voting ahead of the March 20 primary.

There were 175 early voters between Feb. 20 and Monday in the county clerk’s office and at the Bloomington Election Commission, officials said Tuesday. That’s about average for Bloomington's election authority, and County Clerk Kathy Michael said it was "very slow" for her office.

“Just as in past gubernatorial primaries, it starts out slowly, and usually picks up as people make their final decisions,” Michael said.

Local Democrats are hoping that a surge in energy and a larger field of candidates will drive up voter turnout. So far, 50.3 percent of early voters have taken Democratic ballots, with 48 percent taking Republican ballots and less 2 percent casting a Libertarian ballot. It’s too early to draw conclusions on that breakdown. In the last four primaries, Democratic ballots have never topped 40 percent of votes cast.

There will be even more opportunities to vote early in the next few weeks. Saturday voting will be available March 10 and March 17 for both Bloomington and county/Normal voters, in addition to weekday hours. The county clerk will also offer early voting at Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center on March 5-9 and again from March 12-16.

The start of early voting was delayed, from Feb. 8 to Feb. 20, as election authorities waited on the outcome of a court case involving the Illinois attorney general’s race.

That delay will “not ultimately be a big deal,” said Paul Shannon, executive director of the Bloomington Election Commission.

“If there had been that many people really anxious and interested in voting (early), we would’ve had a larger turnout those first few days. Our first day was 25 voters. The delayed start I don’t think has any impact at all. People like to wait until later in the early voting timeframe, so they get a better idea of who they’re going to vote for,” Shannon said.

Meanwhile, residents can also vote by mail. So far, 752 people have requested ballots to vote by mail as of Monday, and 123 have already returned them.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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