McLean County and City of Bloomington election officials said Monday they have received more than 42,457 ballots through early voting and vote by mail. That is about 37.7% of the roughly 112,600 registered voters in the county, even before polls open Tuesday morning. Just 10 days ago, the votes cast figure was closer to 20%.
Both election jurisdictions have data showing strong vote-by-mail returns.
The McLean County Clerk’s office website showed 10,912 vote-by-mail ballots have been received to date, out of 15,841 applications for a mail-in ballot. A total of 11,300 residents of the county have voted early.
Bloomington Election Commission Executive Director Tim Mitchell said 10,245 city voters returned mail-in ballots as of Friday, out of 15,693 sent out.
“You take the people who have already voted and those who have returned vote-by-mail ballots, and you’re talking over 20,000 people out of total registered voters of 52,000 and change. That’s about 40% already,” said Mitchell.
A precise estimate of mail-in ballots that have yet to be returned is not available for the entire county.
Mitchell said 2,053 Bloomington residents have voided their vote-by-mail ballots as they surrendered them at an early voting site. That leaves 3,300 and change vote-by-mail ballots outstanding, or about 21% of all of those ballots in Bloomington, said Mitchell.
McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael said her office does not track mail-in ballots surrendered at early voting sites. Using the Bloomington Election Commission to compare, the county number of surrendered ballots is likely in the thousands as well. Mail-in ballots can be received for up to two weeks after the election.
Mitchell said there is no real pattern for those who void ballots.
“We’ve had some who said, ‘Oh, I was just holding onto the vote-by-mail just in case.’ Others who were, ‘Oh hey I was just at Eastland and I saw I could vote, so I did.’ Others who were, ‘I don’t know where everything’s going with the pandemic and things getting shut down again and I went to vote early.’ There’s honestly no rhyme or reason as to why,” said Mitchell.
He said it's probable that some of those 3,300 remaining will turn up at the polls and surrender their ballots. He cautioned people cannot drop off completed mail-in ballots at polling places on Tuesday. In practice, that only means they would surrender and void the mail-in ballot and vote in person at their precincts.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
With roughly two thirds of vote-by-mail ballots already in house, Mitchell said it makes it easier to process the in-person ballots on election night.
“Somewhat, yes. I think the biggest challenge will be what comes in the mail Tuesday because right now we have a lot of election judges in the office to help with vote-by-mail stuff, and on Election Day most of them will be out working at the polls, so we’ll have fewer of them to help us,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said he does not expect a drawn-out count on election night.
“I’m not expecting anything too late. It’ll depend on how much that comes in in the mail that we’ll have to process or by seven o’clock. The hardest two factors are going to be the retrieval of the ballots from the drop boxes from our offices and Grossinger Motors Arena and opening those up after seven,” said Mitchell.
One measure of voter passion this election season is that down-ballot races are getting attention. The Bloomington Election Commission inadvertently left off two judicial retention choices off the ballot and had to send out a second ballot solely with those questions.
Mitchell said more than 3,500 people have chosen to vote on those two judges and taken the extra step of mailing in the second ballots.
“They’re paying attention. Very much so,” said Mitchell.
That’s significant because, historically, judicial retention questions frequently do not attract responses from in-person voters, who tend to know little about the candidates on that part of the ballot.
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