Although a final tally of the number of votes cast in Illinois’ primary won’t be completed for a few weeks, election officials have indicated that this year’s primary brought out so many people to the polls that some polling stations reportedly ran out of ballots.
Polling stations in Adams and Sangamon counties reportedly turned some voters away temporarily due to ballot shortages. Both counties eventually printed more ballots and extended their voting hours. This year’s election marked the first time Illinois residents could register and vote on the same day, which some election officials believe increased voter turnout.
“I think we saw there were some really hot state-level races and I think that did bring out new voters in various districts across the state,” Sarah Burns, executive director for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) told Illinois Business Daily. “Also, the presidential race being competitive on both sides I think really brought out some voters that maybe upset some of the state- level races — unpolled, untested voters. But we’re happy to see people are turning out and many of them registering to vote and voting on election day.”
Burns said although she wasn’t surprised to see more people head to the polls this year because numbers tend to fluctuate with each election cycle, she was pleasantly surprised to see an impressive 45 percent turnout when the average for a primary is 22 percent.
Interestingly, the voting trend within each party is vastly different. According to an ICPR report titled The Illinois Voter Project, Republican turnout in 2014 trumped Democratic turnout, which has steadily declined over the past four elections cycles.
“We’ve actually found that over the past four election cycles the number of Democratic voters has declined and the number of Republican ballots polled in Illinois primary elections has slightly increased,” Burns said.
A close analysis of the voting trend showed Republican votes accounted for 30 percent of the votes in 2008; 44 percent in 2010; 55 percent in 2012; and 61 percent in 2014.
The opposite was seen in Democratic voting. In 2008, 66 percent of the votes cast were Democratic votes, compared to 53.5 percent in 2010, 42 percent in 2012 and 36 percent in 2014.
Burns said she is interested to see the final tally for this election but believes there was high turnout from both parties.
“It tells me that people are more engaged on both sides of the aisle. I think throughout the primary as well - just the presidential primary in the whole country - the GOP has seen a lot of new voters come out for (Donald) Trump and those are people whether we are talking national (or) state level, they are unpolled new voters,” Burns said.
In last week’s Super Tuesday II, Republican turnout increased to 20.3 million - an increase seen in all five states - compared to 12.5 million in 2012 and 13.4 million in 2008, according to an NPR report. In contrast, the five major states brought out 15.4 million Democratic voters this year - significantly lower than the 19.8 million voters in 2008.
“I think campaigning for the general election maybe didn’t start the day after the primary, but I think we are going to start seeing some activity very soon and I hope to see very high (turnout) in this November election as well,” Burns said. “The average for the past four elections in Illinois has been 54 percent engagement in the general election and I expect to see that number totally blown out of the water.”
The ICPR encourages bipartisan dialogue on how to improve the processes of government and elections in Illinois. The ICPR’s Illinois Voter Project is a comprehensive profile of how Illinois votes based on gender, age, party affiliation and data on both active and inactive voters.