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Peoria County voter turnout falls between recent off-year primaries

Peoria County Election Commission executive director Thomas Bride says turnout for this year's primary election fell in between the last two midterm primaries.
Joe Deacon
Peoria County Election Commission Executive Director Thomas Bride says turnout for Tuesday's primary election fell in between the last two midterm primaries.

A little over 18% of registered Peoria County voters participated in Tuesday’s primary election, according to Election Commission executive director Thomas Bride.

Results show the county with 21,375 votes tabulated, with Bride noting about 500 mailed votes have not yet been received. He noted this year’s turnout landed in the middle of the showings from the last two primaries in non-presidential years.

“It was above where we were eight years ago, but we were behind where we were four years ago,” said Bride, noting that pushing the election back from the spring to June didn’t seem to be a major factor in turnout.

“We weren't sure going in because of the change in date. We weren't quite to where we were four years ago, but we were way ahead of where we were eight years ago in the same election.”

Bride said the 2016 primary drew a turnout of 16.8% while that surged to 20.5% in 2020. He said this year saw a 30% increase in early voting and a 75% jump in vote-by-mail participation.

“Being up in early voting actually surprised me more than the vote-by-mail did. We've been seeing an increase in the vote-by-mail each election,” said Bride.

Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman reported primary election turnout at 22.9%, up two points from two years ago, but down five points from the 2018 primary. That election saw then-incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner facing a challenge from Jeanne Ives, and current Gov. JB Pritzker emerging from a field of six Democratic hopefuls.

After putting out a call last month for more election judges, Bride said things went smoothly at the polling places despite being short-handed.

“We can always use more judges, and we had some locations that were pretty light for judges,” he said. “But the nice thing is that we have great judges and they got the work done. They worked very hard and had a long day. The judges we did have did a great job.”

Bride said the switch to new voting machines using paper ballots also went off without a hitch.

“It was pretty well positive feedback from the voters that we spoke to,” he said. “Especially, we’ve had early voting in our office for really 40 days leading up to the election, and overwhelmingly the feedback was positive. There was a little bit of ‘it's a change’ and those kinds of things, but I think overall the voters did appreciate the new system.”

Bride acknowledged the new machines did cause the tabulation process to go “a little slower than in the past.”

“A lot of that just had to do with it was new to us and we were trying to be really methodical and make sure that we were doing it right,” he said. “Some of the judges, I noticed in speaking with them, they took a little longer to get back. But they were doing the same thing: They were being cautious and methodical, and making sure that everything was being done properly because it was a lot of new processes for them.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.