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Most voters likely to stay away from polls : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Most voters likely to stay away from polls
Just 22 percent of Kendall voters cast ballots in last non-presidential primary

by Matt Schury


Kendall County Clerk Debbie Gillette is keeping her fingers crossed that snow is not in the forecast for Election Day next Tuesday, March 18, as it could lead to an even lower than usual voter turnout.

If history is any indication voter turnout Tuesday should be around 20 percent.

Gillette said she is optimistic that more people will turn out but said that the weather can play a factor.

The clerk's office offers early voting at the Kendall County Office Building in Yorkville and Oswego Village Hall. Gillette says that early voting turnout has been lower on the days it has snowed. She recalled that the first few days early voting was offered in March her office had been averaging about 50 voters a day but when a snowstorm hit later in the week the number of early voters tumbled to 35.

Early voting is down slightly overall from years past. Gillette said that as of Tuesday, 272 people had early voted in Yorkville and 310 had turned out to vote in Oswego.

Early voting ends in Oswego today (Thursday) at 5 p.m. and continues until Saturday in Yorkville at noon.

"We might hit 400 in Oswego, maybe slightly less here in Yorkville," she said.

Early voter totals in the 2012 general primary election were 544 in Oswego and 527 in Yorkville. In 2010 392 voters in Oswego turned out to vote early for the primary election and 544 cast early ballots in Yorkville.

The current forecast for next Tuesday calls for a high near 50 degrees and sunshine in Kendall County, according to the National Weather Service. But should the area be hit with another late season snowstorm, it could affect the polls on Tuesday, Gillette said.

"I'm hoping the weather will settle down before we get to the primary," she said. "Generally in March it's not a big factor but you never know."

As a whole, voter turnout tends to run lower in non-presidential primary election years. The last such election in early 2010 garnered a turnout of just 22 percent. Comparatively, 37.8 percent of voters came out to vote in 2008 in the primary election, which was a presidential election year.

"I think it is going to be really similar to what it has been in the past for this election," she said. "I'll say 27 percent turnout to be optimistic."

Gillette speculated that the lower turnout in a primary might be because of an increase of independent voters who don't want to have to declare a party.

"I think that they want to be able to vote for whomever they think will do the job the best, whether they be Republican or a Democrat," she said.

Voters may also not have gotten as much face time with candidates as the tough winter made it harder for those running to knock on doors. Gillette says she understands if voters had other things on their mind this winter.

"They have been thinking about shoveling and staying warm," she said.

But Gillette does hope the local races garner some interest.

"Hopefully with the sheriff's race I'm thinking that might bring out some more people or the electric aggregation question might bring out some more people. You just never know," Gillette said.

One bright spot could be younger voters. For the first time, 17 year-olds will be allowed to vote in this primary election. A new law that went into effect this year allows the teenagers to cast ballots in a primary election as long as they will be 18 years old by the time of the November general election.

According to Gillette, 127 Kendall County high school students signed up to vote as part of Gillette's outreach program earlier this year. She said she is glad that the teenagers showed an interest in the election.

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