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Turnout Jumps In McLean County But Still Lags 2016

More McLean County voters turned out Tuesday than during the last midterm election, though the pace failed to reach the high-water mark of a presidential election year.

Turnout reached 60 percent in McLean County, according to preliminary tallies from the McLean County clerk’s office and the Bloomington Election Commission. That includes pre-Election Day votes.

That’s higher than the 49 percent turnout in 2014, during the last midterm and gubernatorial election. But it’s not quite as high as the 73 percent local turnout seen during the 2016 presidential election.

The McLean County Libertarians claimed success, despite not winning any races Tuesday. That's because Libertarian McLean County Treasurer candidate Lex Green won 26 percent of the vote in his loss to incumbent Republican Rebecca McNeil. That ensures the Libertarians preserve ballot access in McLean County through 2022, making it easier to get on the ballot.

"We may not have won any of our races," Steve Suess, McLean County Libertarian Party chairman, said in a statement. "But more than 30,000 votes were cast for Libertarians. That's outstanding, and I'm incredibly proud of our candidates, activists, and local liberty movement."

Suess himself lost his bid for McLean County Board in District 8. Democrat Shayna Watchinski won that race. She'll succeed Democrat Paul Segobiano on the board.

Signs Of Big Turnout

The higher-than-normal turnout was not a surprise.

The last few weeks saw record numbers of early voters in McLean County, far outpacing the last midterm and gubernatorial election in 2014. Election authorities said early voting turnout for 2018 was looking more like a presidential election year, when turnout is typically at its highest. 

Enthusiasm was especially high among Democrats eager to vote in the biggest election since Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. During the March primary, around 13,000 voters in McLean County took a Democratic ballot. That was a big increase from the 3,800 Democratic primary voters in 2014. 

On average since World War II, only about 40 percent of Americans eligible to vote cast a ballot in midterms. That’s 30 percent lower than presidential elections. In 2014, a record low 36 percent cast a ballot, the lowest in 70 years — since 1942, when many adults were fighting in the war overseas. 

Nationally, the midterm record was set in 1966, when 49 percent turned out. Back then it was the Democrats facing the backlash. President Lyndon Johnson was in the White House and Congress had just passed his Great Society measures on Medicare, voting rights and civil rights. 

NPR’s Domenico Montanaro contributed to this report.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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