More than 10,000 mail-in ballots were requested by McHenry County voters ahead of Thursday, which marked the first day of early voting for the November midterms.
McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio compared the number of requests to 2018 when then candidate JB Pritzker and Gov. Bruce Rauner received fewer than 7,500 vote-by-mail ballots total between them in McHenry County.
“While it is possible, that not all of the applications will turn into vote by mail votes, it’s a pretty substantial start,” he said.
Meanwhile, around 80 people opted to vote in-person at the McHenry County Administration Building, Tirio said. While he doesn’t have a way to directly compare previous first days, he said it “feels a little low.”
One such voter was Crystal Lake resident Kelli Joseph. She said she went in to re-register on Thursday and learned she could vote.
There wasn’t a particular race that brought Joseph out to the polls, she said, but one item on the ballot that caught her attention was Amendment 1, also known as the Workers’ Rights Amendment. She said she didn’t fully understand what it was and felt it was misleading.
The amendment guarantees workers the right to collectively bargain in Illinois.
“I think the unions are behind it,” she said. “I voted no. I feel the unions have ruined Chicago and Illinois.”
While Thursday marked the first day to vote with 40 days remaining until the Nov. 8 election, 10 more early voting locations will open up across the county on Oct. 24.
Voting by mail is also an option, with Nov. 3 the last day voters can request a ballot by mail and Nov. 7 the last day one can be requested in person. All mail-in ballots must be postmarked Nov. 8 or earlier to be counted.
Typically, midterm elections see a lower turnout compared to presidential election years.
In 2018, more than 1.1 million voted early in Illinois, state board data shows. This compares with 2016, where more than 1.5 million people voted early, and 2020, when more than 2 million voted early.
In McHenry County, turnout was at 50% in 2018 with nearly 118,000 ballots cast, McHenry County Clerk’s Office reports show. Two years earlier, during the presidential election, turnout in the county was 67% with more than 145,000.
Though, the importance of the midterms this year was on the minds of some early voters.
In addition to all 17 Illinois seats in the U.S. House of Representatives being up for grabs, so are one U.S Senate seat for the state and the governor’s office.
Other races include attorney general, secretary of state and comptroller. Local races include all 18 McHenry County Board seats, treasurer and county clerk.
Joseph, noting the importance, said she never votes in midterm elections, but felt it was important to do so this time around.
“This is different,” she said. “There’s too much animosity going on right now. Either side you’re on, you’re very strong-minded and it’s important.”
Despite the animosity, Joseph thinks people agree more than they disagree.
“I think we’re all purple,” she said.
Woodstock resident Jan Springborn said this was the first time she early voted. She enjoyed not having to wait in line.
One thing she said she was thankful for were the accommodations made for those like her that have trouble with their eyes.
There wasn’t a race in particular she was focused on, but hopes this year’s midterms end up being more consequential.
“I hope things change for the better,” she said.