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Early birds get out the vote

Early voters in 2018 surpass those in 2014 midterm election

MORRIS – The old saying is vote early and vote often, and while the second half of the statement might be a crime, people in Grundy County seem to be taking the first part to heart.

With less than a week to go before Election Day, the Grundy County Clerk’s Office said it has seen more early voters than it did in 2014, the last midterm elections. Vote by mail applications also have increased.

“They’ve more than doubled,” Grundy County Clerk Kay Olson said. In 2014, the county had requests for 613 vote-by-mail ballots. This year, that number is 1,234.

Voter turnout in 2014 was about 55 percent, Olson said. That’s higher than the 36.7 percent nationwide in that year, or the about 41 percent across Illinois. What’s on the ballot also can influence who goes out to the polls and in what kind of force.

And although those numbers are high, they pale in comparison to 2016’s 70 percent voter turnout.

In 2014, each county office was contested, Olson said, and that can make a difference. This year, two of the three county offices are contested – Olson, a Democrat, does not have a Republican challenger – as are all of the county board seats.

Beyond Grundy County offices, State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, has a Democratic challenger in Heidi Henry of Ottawa, and Congressman Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, has a Democratic challenger in Sara Dady of Rockford. State Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, is uncontested.

There also are five referendums on the ballot across the county, including proposed tax increases in the Gardner Fire Protection District, and multi-million dollar bond referendums in Saratoga and Minooka school districts.

It’s not just the races, however, but the people in them who can drive voter turnout.

“The candidates on the ballot are doing a great job of telling people about early voting,” Olson said.

The Grundy County Courthouse at 111 E. Washington St., Morris, is the county’s early voting polling place. It has been open on some Saturdays and Sundays since early voting began in September.

On the most recent Saturday, 250 voters came through at a steady pace, Olson said. Another 100 came in on Sunday, which was a lot for a Sunday.

“Normally, we get the church stragglers,” she said.

Olson said she wouldn’t be surprised if this coming Saturday another 200 show up at the polling place for early voting. It won’t be open this Sunday.

Alice Mayr has been an election judge since 1973. She said she’s seen a lot more early voting in that time. Some people have been reluctant to use the technology, as well, and would prefer a paper ballot, she said.

Joy Hartshorn, also an election judge, said there was some confusion with the electronic voting.

“So many people think if it’s electronic, it’s hooked to the internet,” she said. “It’s not.”

Olson said she hoped the trend would continue through Election Day on Tuesday. She said she’s seeing more people come in as groups to vote and even some families are coming in to vote together. There are a lot of newer voters, too, she said, but not necessarily younger. Some older people are coming out and need to be coached through the process, and that’s OK.

“As long as people are coming in and voting, it’s great,” Olson said.

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