DeKalb County voters flock to the polls Tuesday, as election judges note ‘better than expected’ turnout

Arianna Chandler, a senior at Northern Illinois University, feeds her ballot into the collection machine on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the polling place in Westminster Presbyterian Church in DeKalb.

DeKALB – DeKalb County voters flocked to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots for Illinois’ next governor and a newly redistricted DeKalb County Board, among other races. Some election judges said they believe voter turnout was strong.

“Better than expected,” said Terry Heiland, an election judge at the Hopkins Park polling place. “It’s gone well, but we have a better turnout.”

A 10:30 a.m. Wednesday news release from the DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder’s Office announced that mail-in ballot tallies had not been added to Tuesday night’s results totals.

As of Wednesday, DeKalb County voter turnout was reported at 64%, according to unofficial election results from the DeKalb County Clerk’s Office. The 2020 presidential election saw over 75% turnout. According to the office, DeKalb County had 60,245 voters registered ahead of the midterms, and 38,356 ballots were cast, including 11,388 early votes and 23,173 votes cast Tuesday.

DeKalb County Clerk Doug Johnson said Tuesday night that a computer error was at fault for early reported results that initially indicated 100% of precincts were reporting results shortly after 8 p.m. An early vote tally that was published on the clerk’s online election results page had showed 65 out of 65 precincts reporting, with several election results that, about a half hour later, indicated different leaders and fewer precincts. Johnson said the changeup was the computer correcting itself.

Rodger Hartmen, who cast his ballot at Real Connection Church, 1115 S. Malta Road in DeKalb, said Tuesday afternoon he always votes in elections but feels this year’s midterm election is especially important.

“And I know they say they’re important, you know, each one is the most important, but this I do believe is,” Hartmen said.

Asked why he believes this year’s election is more important than previous elections, Hartmen said he thinks “we’re headed to hell in a handbasket.”

Hartmen said inflation, the country’s southern border, and protection for police officers were top issues for him as a voter.

Ron Lieving, a volunteer auxiliary officer for the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office who served as an election judge at the Hopkins Park polling place, said he expected 400 to 500 voters at the site, but 486 votes already had been tabulated by 3:16 p.m. Tuesday.

Lieving attributed the turnout to the weather.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the weather. It’s nice, it’s sunny, you know, maybe a little breezy, but we don’t have snow on the ground. It’s a better day [than last year’s election],” Lieving said.

Lieving said he believes Tuesday’s turnout was higher than expected.

“It’s been a lot busier than we all expected, which is a great thing,” Lieving said. “You know, a lot of men and women died for this right, and I don’t care what party you vote for, just get out and do it. You know, honor those men and women.”

Tracy Diehl also voted at Real Connection Church.

“Women’s reproductive rights is very important,” Diehl said. “I really scrutinized the candidates’ platforms to make sure that I understood what their standpoints were on that particular issue.”

Early in the day, the Hopkins Park polling place experienced a technical difficulty when a voting machine lost power. Heiland said the issue lasted about five minutes when the battery running the voting machine stopped working. After troubleshooting with the power cord for a few minutes, the machine was back in operation.

“We had a little power outage on that one,” Heiland said. “We took care of it with opening up a different place to put the ballots in. People moved through quickly, and there was no problem.”

When asked what issues on the ballot mattered to her, Candice Gall, who also voted at Real Connection Church, said there wasn’t one single issue.

“Not anything specific, really, just like some of the amendments ... like the workers’ rights and stuff like that,” Gall said, referring to the proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution giving workers the right to unionize.

Brief technical issues reportedly solved

A different problem affected the Real Connection Church polling place earlier in the day, election officials said. The tabulator for the voting machine at the Real Connection Church polling place was down for about three hours early in the day, but by 3:40 p.m., that issue had been resolved.

Dave Klenke, an election judge at Real Connection Church, said the tabulator displayed the wrong time when the day began. He said 44 ballots were cast by voters during the three hours the machine was inoperable. Those ballots were put in a separate compartment of the voting machine and would be tabulated once the polls closed.

“Well, we had to put the ballots in a separate area on the voting machine at the end of the night, then we’ll run those ballots through the tabulator, and we told the people what was going on,” Klenke said.

As of 3:40 p.m., about 445 votes had been cast at the Real Connection Church polling place, Klenke said.

“Just a regular election day that I can tell,” said Klenke, who has been an election judge for the past four years.

This story was updated at 12:22 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. An additional update was made at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 9, 2022 with the added tallies from mail-in ballots, which were published by the DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder’s Office Wednesday morning.

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