Results show light election day turnout in Cook County
Mundelein High School senior Evan Dinelli gets instructions from ballot issue judges Chris Rascati of Deerfield and Gail Foote of Lindenhurst Tuesday at the Patty Turner Center in Deerfield. | Ruthie Hauge~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2012 8:14AM
Representatives of Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office reported that voter turnout was “very light” Tuesday and in keeping with low turnouts for primary elections in Illinois.
There was no way to no for sure until results from some 1,700 precincts started to be recorded after 7 p.m. when the polls closed. But the early numbers seemed to suggest that no more than a quarter of the nearly 1.4 million suburban Cook County voters went to the polls Tuesday.
Orr’s office reported few if any serious problems on the unseasonably warm and clear March election day.
Typical snags such as a scanner needing replacement in Lincolnwood, an Evanston polling place needing an election judge manual, campaign workers needing reminders on standing far enough away from polling sites and a few voter registration tangles were the only challenges — pretty standard stuff. The day ran as smoothly as could be expected, Orr’s office reported.
Orr Tuesday morning said the day was off to a good start with few snags in the first few hours of voting.
“It’s a great day and everyone is in a good mood,” he said. “So far, there have not been too many problems.”
A power outage north in the Wheeling area did not result in much hardship as judges were “smart” and kept people voting — even if it was a little darker than usual. Power was restored quickly. Minor problems in Lyons and Schaumburg also were quickly rectified.
The usual primary turnout in Cook County is about 25 percent with a high of 45 percent when President Barack Obama ran four years ago.
Like in that contest, Illinois voters — this time on the Republican side — had the rare experience of casting votes that counted in a presidential primary.
Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul were all actively running to challenge Obama in November although only the first two campaigned heavily in Illinois.
Orr’s office earlier released information that Republicans in suburban Cook County cast 44 percent more early voting ballots than in 2008.
Nearly 4,400 more Republicans participated in this year’s early voting process than four years ago. GOP voters represented 38.6 percent of all early voting ballots cast, up from 19.4 percent in 2008.
Keeping a respectful distance from the polling place for Precinct 26 in LaGrange Park, poll watcher Jason Cedergren of Chicago on Tuesay passed out literature for his candidate, Democrat James Michael McGing running for Illinois Appellate Court judge.
“I can only go so far, not into the parking lot,” Cedergren said near the LaGrange Park Village Hall, 447 N. Catherine Ave. “I’ve been here since 6 a.m. Good thing it’s a nice day.”
Inside, election judges Ellen Bailey and George Oswald said turnout was steady all day, amounting to about 20 percent of the precinct’s 1,000 registered voters by 3 p.m.
“We get people before going to work at 9 a.m., then at lunch, after school and finally coming home,” Oswald said.
Bailey agreed, adding, “There have been some lulls during the day.”
The judges reported no problems with equipment, that everything was working properly.
Orr said Tuesday that the unusually perfect March weather was not likely to drive up voter turnout in suburban Cook County. It works only the other way: Bad weather keeps voter turnout down, he said.
He believed that some cities and villages in northern Cook County would see some uptick in voter turnout in areas where there were contested congressional races.