La Salle County Clerk Lori Bongartz set a fingers-crossed goal of 60% voter turnout in the 2022 general election. At 9:30 a.m., that looked like a good bet.
That pace slowed down, however.
By the end of Tuesday, 39,620 votes were cast in La Salle County for a turnout of 55.9%. That total was lower than the last gubernatorial election four years ago when Gov. JB Pritzker was elected and turnout was 57.22%, but higher than in 2014 when Bruce Rauner was elected with turnout at 53.05%.
Republican challenger Darren Bailey bested Pritzker in La Salle County by a tally of 21,695 to 16,356, despite Pritzker gaining 55% of the statewide vote. Roughly 52% of La Salle County voters also voted for Kathy Salvi over Democratic incumbent Tammy Duckworth, who garnered nearly 57% of the statewide vote.
“We’re doing very well,” said Dave Potthoff, an election judge at Peru precinct 9, located at St. John’s Lutheran Church, which drew 131 voters. “I was surprised because there were so many people who voted beforehand.”
Three other precincts at St. John’s recorded less robust totals – Peru precinct 4 had 39 voters by 9:15 a.m. – but election judges nonetheless described turnout as “steady” and, in one case, “So far, so good.”
The main driver appeared to be the gubernatorial race between Pritzker and Bailey.
Potthoff wasn’t the only one to express surprise at the early interest. Mike Kasap, a Democrat seeking reelection to the La Salle County Board, visited two La Salle polling places and said the early turnout exceeded his expectations.
“I didn’t expect it to be this passionate this early,” Kasap said. “I’m really impressed.”
La Salle precinct 9 led the four precincts at the La Salle VFW with 92 voters in the door by 9 a.m. As with Peru, neighboring precincts were slower – La Salle precinct 4 draws after-work voters and had 27 in the door Tuesday morning – but those numbers are strong for a city that usually vies with Streator for the county’s lowest participation.
Oglesby precincts were busy as well. La Salle precincts 10 and 13 drew turnout of 65 and 79 by 10 a.m., which was deemed “steady” by election judges on hand.
Utica tends to vote more strongly than its neighbors to the west and that might prove true again.
Election judge Mary Pawlak said Utica precinct 1 had 170 voters at 9:45 a.m., a strong early number for a precinct where voters typically file in late afternoon.
“We’ve been steady since 6 o’clock,” Pawlak said. “This is already better than what we had in the primary.”
That was the case in Ottawa, as well. There are six precincts at the Knights of Columbus Rivers Edge Event Center on Main Street and while only one reported more than 100 voters at 11 a.m. – Ottawa precinct 9 led neighboring precincts with 101 – the consensus view was the end-of-day totals would be strengthened by a notable early voting.
“We’ve more than doubled the primary total,” said James Smith, an election judge at Ottawa precinct 7.