Leading up to the 2014 gubernatorial election, when Bruce Rauner defeated the Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn, St. Clair County had 8,360 vote by mail applications. So far this year, it has had more than 13,000 applications for vote by mail ballots.
“It appears there seems to be a more-interested turnout,” St. Clair County Clerk Tom Holbrook said.
The numbers this year top levels in the 2016 presidential election, which saw 11,400 vote by mail applications.
This election, Rauner, the incumbent Republican governor, is being challenged by Democrat J.B. Pritzker, Conservative Sam McCann, and Libertarian Kash Jackson. Also, its the midterm elections, which historically have not gone well for the party in power. That and some hotly contested races for Congress may also be drawing more people to vote early.
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Holbrook said it isn’t uncommon that early voting and requests for ballots by mail is higher because there is no longer a need to have a reason to vote by mail.
“In states that have done this, it increases because people find it so convenient,” he said.
Holbrook didn’t have a specific breakdown of Republican and Democrats. “We’re a 55-45 Democratic county,” and he suspected more Democrats would apply for absentee ballots or vote early.
Madison County also was showing a higher turnout, and showed a higher turnout among Democrats, according to an analysis of data released by the county clerk’s office.
In Madison County, 6,403 people who identify as Democrats, while 3,342 Republicans have requested a mail-in ballot or voted early.
County Clerk Debra Ming-Mendoza said the turnout so far is much higher than in previous midterms.
“We’re at a presidential (election) pace,” Ming-Mendoza said. “I can’t definitively say that by Nov. 6 we’re going to be at 76 or 77 percent like we were at the presidential election, but we’re going to be much higher than any midterm in the past, if we keep the pace we’re going at right now.”
She said she’ll be interested to see how many are first time voters, or normally don’t vote in midterm elections.
“Something has caught their interest and they are coming to the polls to voice their opinions on issues,” Mendoza said.
Holbrook encouraged people to take advantage of early voting.
“I would urge anyone that can to vote early. You still have time, you could go online and do an application to vote by mail, you can call our office. The early voting sites are open seven days a week … next week we’re open into the evenings,” Holbrook said. “Don’t take a chance and be waiting.
“It appears it will be a pretty decent turnout. Will it be a presidential level? I don’t know that. I can’t foresee that, but I could tell you, compared to a regular governor’s race, if the early voting reflects the interest in the election, and that follows through on Election Day, you don’t want to be standing in a line going to work or coming home from work.”
“It’s their money paying for it, they should be there,” Holbrook added. “It’s a state mandate that we have (these sites) and they should utilize this service if they can.”
For more information on requesting a vote by mail application or early voting madisonvotes.com or http://www.countyclerk.co.st-clair.il.us/elections/Pages/default.aspx.
St. Clair County early voting sites
Belleville: St. Clair County Clerk’s Office at 10 Public Square
Fairview Heights: Caseyville Township Office, 10001 Bunkum Road
Madison County early voting sites
Edwardsville: Madison County Administration Building 157 N. Main St.
Granite City: Township Building 2060 Delmar Ave., Office B
Collinsville: Collinsville Senior Citizen Center 420 E. Main St.
Highland: Louis Latzer Memorial Public Library 1001 9th St.
Madison: Venice Township Hall 910 Madison Ave.
Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Morris University Center in the Willow Room.
Troy: Troy City Hall 116 E. Market St.
East Alton: Wood River Township Office 41 S. 9th St.