Park Ridge city clerk: Low early-voting turnout doesn’t bode well for election day
Voters cast their votes at an electronic voting station at Park Ridge City Hall. | Jerry Daliege~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 6, 2012 3:55PM
Park Ridge ended its early-voting period last week with the lowest turnout for a spring primary race since pre-election day voting began in 2006.
Between Feb. 27 and March 15, 793 voters took advantage of early voting at Park Ridge City Hall compared with 910 voters during the 2010 primary and 1,335 during the 2008 primary election.
“Seven hundred ninety-three is a low number,” City Clerk Betty Henneman acknowledged. “The very first time we ever had early voting was back in 2006. We had 822 and we thought that was amazing.”
Henneman, who has served as Park Ridge city clerk since 1985, believes several factors led to fewer early voters venturing out to Park Ridge City Hall this election cycle. For one, the opening of Niles Village Hall as an early-voting site may have kept Niles residents closer to home, Henneman said. There’s also the fact that were few local races for voters. Though Republicans had a choice between two candidates for the Illinois 28th State Senate District, Democrats did not, with incumbent Dan Kotowski unopposed in the primary. It was same for the 55th State Representative District and the presidential election, both races uncontested for Democrats.
The biggest race, the GOP presidential primary, may have caused Republican voters to take a “wait-and-see” approach with the leading candidates before casting their ballots, Henneman said.
“Or maybe the choices were not what they wanted,” she acknowledged.
Often, primaries bring out fewer voters than general elections, the city clerk said, adding that she expects election day’s turnout will be as low as early voting was.
“I think unless they get really fired up about a candidate, they don’t get a push to go (vote),” Henneman said of the voting public.
According to the Cook County Clerk’s Office, early voting county-wide was higher than the 2010 gubernatorial primary election, with 36,990 voters casting ballots. The number is still considerably less than the last presidential primary in 2008 when 51,067 people voted early, according to statistics provided by the County Clerk’s Office.
Park Ridge does not keep statistics on how many of the its 793 early voters chose a Republican ballot and how many voted Democrat, but according to Cook County, Republican voters county-wide cast 44 percent more ballots during early voting than during the last presidential primary’s early voting period in 2008. Republicans represented 38.6 percent of all early voters, according to Cook County.
Within Maine Township as a whole, 56 percent of voters cast a Republican ballot during early voting, the county said.
In addition to fewer fellow voters Park Ridge residents who choose to vote on election day may find themselves at a new polling place. Henneman said a number of precincts have been renumbered and some have been incorporated into different polling places. Residents of Summit of Uptown, for example, will not be able to vote at the retirement facility because their polling place is now Field School, Henneman said.
“Usually Cook County contacts us to say they are moving a polling place, but this time they just sent us a list,” the city clerk stated.
Residents with questions about the location of their polling place can go to www.voterinfonet.com and enter their address into the search area.