Editor’s Note: April 4 Election results will start being published after polls close Tuesday. Unofficial results can be found via live updates Tuesday night at shawlocal/daily-chronicle/election and also at dekalb.il.clerkserve.com/?cat=49.
DeKALB – DeKalb County election judges said Tuesday voter turnout appeared to be lower than in previous years, citing what they called a lack of voter interest in local races and weather.
DeKalb County voter turnout came in at 10% Tuesday, according to data released by the DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. That’s compared to 9.83% in the last consolidated election in April 2019. In 2021 – when all of DeKalb County’s largest municipalities elected new mayors – voter turnout was 14.59%.
Polls closed at 7 p.m. Voters should remember that results aren’t certified for two weeks and write-in results won’t be known Tuesday.
As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, 1,565 vote-by-mail ballots had been returned to the DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder Office. Eight-hundred-four ballots were cast through early voting.
DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder Tasha Sims said 4% of DeKalb County voters – 2,369 ballots – cast a vote-by-mail ballot or voted early, and that number may still rise because any ballot post marked on or before April 4 will be counted.
The in-person turnout “was quite low,” Sims said.
Sims, DeKalb County’s top election official began her Tuesday at 4:30 a.m. at her office, by 5:45 a.m. she was on the road to a polling place, by 6:30 p.m. she had driven over 200 miles and visited all 40 polling places in DeKalb County.
From her travels Sims said she thinks each precinct had an average of 30 in person voters.
Sims said her office expects to have a rough idea of countywide turnout later this week, but what’s slowing the process is the write-in candidates.
“Let’s take [city of DeKalb] fifth ward. So you’re going to see how many votes the candidate on the ballot has,” Sims said, “and then for the write ins we’re going to see a total number, but we will not know what that split is, because there’s two write-ins for that one write-in line, we won’t know for a couple of days what that split is – how many votes each write-in candidate received.”
Sims said her office won’t know the results of any race with write-in candidates for at least a few days. In all likelihood, those results won’t be available for a week or longer, Sims said.
The elections judges at polling places with precincts with races involving write-in candidates handed sorted the ballots from the vote tabulation machine before bringing the election results to the DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder’s office.
“Historically, this is the most write-ins that I think we’ve ever had – there are 18. So I don’t want to put much of a timeline. Of course we have two weeks to certify the election,” Sims said.
Terry Heiland, an election judge, said Tuesday was a very quiet election day with no issues to speak of where he was stationed, at the Hopkins Park Polling Place.
“It’s been a perfect day, just boring because it doesn’t have that much activity,” Heiland said.
Paul Stoddard said he’s been an election judge for a General Election, a primary and now a Consolidated Election. Stoddard, an election judge at DeKalb Sports and Recreation Center, where five precincts have a polling place said Tuesday was the slowest election he’s work.
“The other two [elections] there were actually people waiting to vote as soon as the polls opened at 6 [a.m.],” Stoddard said.
DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder Tasha Sims said 9.83% of DeKalb County voters participated in the last consolidated election in April 2019. In 2021 – when all of DeKalb County’s largest municipalities elected new mayors – voter turnout was 14.59%.
“It’s really a shame actually because this election will actually affect people’s lives here in DeKalb County more than the November elections do. So it’s a shame that more people don’t get involved,” Stoddard said.
“It’s really a shame actually because this election will actually affect people’s lives here in DeKalb County more than the November elections do. So it’s a shame that more people don’t get involved.”— Paul Stoddard, DeKalb County election judge on low voter turnout
As of 4:30 p.m. a little more than 200 ballots had been cast in the five precincts – DK18 through DK22 – at the DeKalb Sports and Recreation Center, officials said.
In Sycamore, precinct 8 at the Sycamore Golf Club had reported fewer than 20 voters by 3 p.m, election judges said.
Heiland said as of 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday only 72 individuals had come to cast a ballot in the Consolidated Election the DeKalb precinct. The 73rd person to cast a ballot at the Hopkins Park Polling Place was Brian Balika, a band teacher at Clinton Rosette Middle School.
“I participated because we’re voting for school board this year and this is a contract negotiation year for our teachers and so it’s important we have people who have students’ best interest on the board,” Balika said.
Alicia Watson, of DeKalb, said she finds the low voter turnout discouraging.
“I think it’s discouraging because without voting there will be no change,” Alicia Watsons said. “I guess unless people are satisfied with the current state of affairs but I think in order to see change and make change it’s important to vote.”
Her husband, Adam Watson said the low voter turnout was a result of the candidates on the ballot, and a lack of community engagement.
“I think that the low enthusiasm is reflective of lack of engagement from quality candidates, lack of engagement from the public in general; and probably a lot of people feel like there’s not enough diversity of opinion on display to vote for,” Adam Watson said.
Compared to the Watsons, Balika had a positive outlook regarding the low voter-turnout.
“If there’s not that many people then my vote’s extra important that time, because you have a more of a say as a percentage of the people who are voting,” Balika said.
Many races in DeKalb County feature candidates running unopposed. In some, such as the DeKalb Park District Board of Commissioners race, no names will appear on the ballot, although five residents are write-in hopefuls.
Severe weather affected DeKalb County Tuesday. Stoddard said he believes that may have played a factor in low voter turnout.
“Especially if you don’t know who the people are on the ballot, why would you go out in the middle of a pouring rain storm?” Stoddard said.
Heiland said he doesn’t think severe weather was at fault, however, and instead opined on what he called a lack of political parties in municipal elections. Municipal elections are nonpartisan.
At a polling place during a previous Consolidated Election, Heiland said a man told him wanted to vote candidates aligned with the Democratic Party, but didn’t see political parties next to candidates’ names. Heiland said after explaining political parties aren’t involved in Consolidated Elections the man walked out without casting a ballot.
“That wasn’t this one, that was a previous [election], but that seems to be possibly an attitude that people have because there are no parties involved – and there shouldn’t be – you’re looking at board members,” Heiland said.
This story was updated at 12:12 a.m. April 5 to report the latest voter turnout numbers.