Election judge Patty Broers said poll workers at Cotton Hill Precinct 1 just south of Rochester were greeted by a long line of voters as doors opened Tuesday morning.
About 80 people voted in the first hour the poll was open, Broers noted.
“You wouldn’t have seen those lines in 2012 or 2016 (elections),” Broers said. “We were very busy.
“I think that people were really ginned up to vote. They’re exercising their civic duty, which is what you want them to do.”
In all, 645 of 796 registered voters, or 81 percent, turned out in Cotton Hill, a township just south of Rochester.
Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said turnout county-wide was 75.12% 105,674 of 140,667 a 2% percent increase over 2016, but off the record 78% in 2008 when President Barack Obama won his first term.
With an animated and contested presidential election against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest breakouts of the election in Illinois was early voting and vote-by-mail.
As of mid-afternoon Wednesday, 32,411 ballots by mail had been received so far by the county. In Illinois, ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 may be counted up to two weeks afterward.) Some 20,365 votes were cast early.
That process, Gray said, was a game-changer.
“I think this is kind of the future model of how elections should be run,” Gray said Wednesday. “I think voters responded to it and I think that plays a big part in why we had such great success.
“It’s no longer theory-level for us.”
The first time use of ballot return drop boxes was also an asset and has won nearly universal praise, Gray said.
The drop boxes were placed on Monroe Street, just south of the Sangamon County Complex, and outside the juvenile detention center and regional office of education, 2201 S. Dirksen Parkway.
“I think it was a really great convenience,” Gray said. “People realized it was safe. It was secure and it was done right. (People could use it) on (their) own time. I’ll be interested in the next election to see if they will keep coming back to it. I suspect they probably will.”
And those lines at places like South Fork Church of Christ, the polling place for Cotton Hill?
Election Day dramatized, Gray said, that more rural areas utilized advanced balloting less often. In-person voting also broke down people’s attitudes toward COVID-19, he added.
“Clearly, the rural lying areas were hellbent on coming out and voting on Election Day,” Gray said.
Patty Broers agreed.
“I really think the people who came in were going to vote regardless,” Broers said.
The 13th U.S. Congressional race between Rep. Rodney Davis and challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a rematch of 2018 that Davis won again Tuesday, probably enticed voters, as did the presidential contest and the graduated income tax amendment, Broers added.
“There were enough issues out there,” she said, “that really resonated about why they needed to be in the voting booth.”
Broers said she and her husband, Richard, have done early voting often and find it safe and handy.
“I think a lot of people feel that way,” Broers said. “People liked the drop boxes and felt (the process) was safe.
“Early voting was a convenience factor that helped voting (overall). I don’t think it detracts from the in-person voting. There have been states that have been doing that for years, so it’s been working.”
The polling spot, Broers said, also had to add two single polling booths to accommodate voters, but the day otherwise went smoothly.
Gray echoed that sentiment.
“At no time did we feel uncomfortable that there weren’t enough resources, but in elections, you never know what (can happen),” Gray said. “There’s too much at stake and you only get one opportunity to make this happen.”
Gray said he will debrief with his staff about the election over the next couple of weeks.
Tuesday may have been a template for something big, he said.
“(There was a) dramatic transfer in the means in which people were casting ballots. That’s interesting and unique,” he said. “I think it’s setting the stage for a transformation of the administration of elections.
“In the end, you want the public to have a credible, confident experience.”
Contact Steven Spearie: 622-1788, email@example.com, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.
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November 4, 2020 at 06:29PM