Welcome to the Senate Republican Press Search.

View Article Details

Print

Early voting numbers strong in Sangamon County ahead of Illinois primary election

State Journal Register

Thursday, June 23, 2022  |  Article  |  Zach Roth

Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said Tuesday that he's encouraged by strong early voting numbers with one week to go before Illinois' primary election.

Gray said 2,846 ballots have been cast since early voting began May 19, with 1,385 mail ballots counted out of 3,078 requests and 1,461 ballots cast in-person at the election office at the Sangamon County Complex. Another election site is slated to open today at the University of Illinois Springfield Student Union for those in select precincts. 

The numbers already have exceeded early voting totals from the last gubernatorial election cycle in 2018, when 2,219 ballots were cast by the same time prior to the March 20 primary that year.

The number of mail ballots has increased significantly in that time — from just 777 ballots at this time in 2018 to 1,385 now — a sign of staying power for them even after the emergency nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has dissipated somewhat.

"Clearly, vote-by-mail is something that has made larger leaps in use than I would have ever expected," Gray said. 

Gray said that the returns indicate better-than-expected results from the pre-election period, with the later date — late June instead of mid-March — not affecting voter enthusiasm for the primary.

"We are certainly exceeding expectations for this cycle," Gray said. "The change in season clearly hasn't affected the pre-Election Day voter services. They have shown great momentum and that momentum continues to build week-to-week in their use."

Gray said both in-person early voting and mail ballots were seeing improving trends week-over-week and that people were satisfied with the ease of use of early voting tools.

"Voters from Sangamon County have been exposed to its (early voting's) convenience, that it's secure and that we provide a good product, one that useful to them," Gray said. "They're utilizing it, so we're really happy about that."

Any concerns that Gray had about the later date impacting voter turnout have been dissuaded by the strong early voting numbers, with the clerk saying that the high stakes of the election — from national races in the U.S. House and Senate to the gubernatorial election to local races — playing a role in bringing people out to the polls.

"Changing the season of the election was of concern, if individual voters were going to pay attention in (the) change of time," Gray said. "Certainly, that has not shown itself to be the facts here in Sangamon County. There's much at stake, certainly, in every election, and there appears to be that in this election. Both parties have good contests that have garnered great attention."

In terms of partisan engagement, slightly more Democrats have returned ballots than Republicans have, with Gray saying that 1,749 Democrats have requested a ballot compared with 1,341 Republican requests.

"It shows that the faithful of each party that utilize early voting have come out and utilized the pre-election services," Gray said. "There is obviously a notion that Democratic voters utilize pre-election services more often than Republicans, but Sangamon County has always been competitive when it comes to both parties putting an emphasis on vote-by-mail and early voting."

Gray said that by the time Tuesday rolls around, about 9% of the ballots will be cast, a sign that while early voting and vote-by-mail is more common, the vast majority of primary ballots will be filled out the old-fashioned way — on paper in the voting booth on Election Day.

"Sangamon County has always been a traditionalist county," Gray said. "But the vote-by-mail and the early voting services have been steadily growing and vote-by-mail is starting to take some leaps and bounds. Time will tell how it all shakes out, but that's all very encouraging to lead us to a position that we believe that Election Day is — if not in line with what we should expect — maybe even do a little bit more."