The big story of Tuesday's election was turnout — the lack of it.
In Illinois it appears that about 430,000 fewer votes were cast this year than in 2008. The actual number won't be known until all ballots are counted and the results are certified by the State Board of Elections, but clearly there was at least a 5 percent drop in voting.
Every Illinois county so far is reporting a decline in ballots cast except for Schuyler County in western Illinois.
Turnout in Champaign County was down significantly from four years ago: from 84,804 in that record 2008 vote to (unofficially) 78,215 on Tuesday.
And the decline was strictly among Democrats. While Mitt Romney got 1,215 more votes in Champaign County than John McCain did four years ago, President Obama's numbers in Champaign County plunged from 48,597 to 40,378.
The situation was the same in other large counties in central Illinois. In McLean County, Romney got 2,871 more votes than McCain did, while Obama's total dropped more than 6,000 votes. In Macon County, Romney's total was 301 greater than McCain's, but Obama's dropped by about 2,800.
In Champaign County, Obama's weaker coattails had an effect on local races.
Four years ago, Democrat Tony Fabri was elected county auditor with 38,716 votes, mainly because of the gigantic turnout of Democratic voters. The Republican candidate this year, John Farney, got virtually the same number of votes that Republican contender Brad Jones got four years ago. But this year's Democratic candidate, George Danos, got 4,468 fewer votes than Fabri did four years ago, most likely because about 8,000 fewer Democratic-leaning voters were at the polls.
The lower Democratic turnout was an even bigger factor in the race for circuit court clerk, where Democrat Barbara Wysocki lost by 1,459 votes to Republican Katie Blakeman.
Overall, the county recorded a 6,589-vote drop from 2004, including a 2,164-vote decline in eight key University of Illinois student precincts.
Obama was still the overwhelming winner in the student precincts (with about 77 percent), but that was down from 83 percent four years ago.
In Champaign-Urbana, Obama got 67 percent of the vote, taking 74 percent in Urbana and 64 percent in Champaign. He lost just one of the 62 C-U precincts, City of Champaign 38, which votes at the Windsor Road Christian Church in Champaign. And he lost that precinct by10 votes, 553-543.
Champaign-Urbana's three predominantly African-American precincts gave Obama another big margin Tuesday: 93 percent of the vote. There again, turnout was down from 2008 by about 400 votes — 2,303 in 2008 to 1,913 on Tuesday.
Jenky's political muscle
It's impossible to say for sure if the letter from Bishop Daniel Jenky, read last weekend at all Catholic churches in the Peoria Diocese, had an effect on voting Tuesday. But there are indications it did.
Jenky's letter was a not-unsubtle suggestion that Catholics not support Obama. The president still outpolled Romney in 10 of the 26 counties in the diocese, including Champaign County, but Obama's percentages were down in every county.
The strongest indicator of Jenky's political clout might be in two particular outposts. LaSalle County is 39 percent Catholic, and there Obama's share of the vote dropped from 55 percent in 2008 to 48.4 percent in 2012. His vote total fell off by more than 4,000 votes in LaSalle County.
And in the traditionally strong Irish Catholic precinct in Champaign County known as Sadorus-Ivesdale, Obama's share of the vote dropped from 54.4 percent four years ago to 39.9 percent Tuesday. It was the first time since 1980 that Sadorus-Ivesdale supported a Republican for president (Ronald Reagan by six votes over Jimmy Carter). Even in Richard Nixon's landslide win over George McGovern in 1972, the precinct voted Democratic.
Presidential election, by Illinois county
Only one Illinois county — Alexander, in deep southern Illinois — went more Democratic in Tuesday's voting than in 2008, and that was a minuscule gain from 56 percent top 56.1 percent.
Meanwhile, the number of downstate counties that favored Obama dipped significantly from 2008. In East Central Illinois, four counties that went Democratic flipped back to the GOP on Tuesday: Vermilion, Coles, Macon and McLean. Champaign stayed Democratic, but Obama's percentage dropped from 58 to 52.
The only other Illinois counties south of Interstate 80 that stayed blue Tuesday were St. Clair, Jackson, Peoria, Rock Island, Fulton, Putnam, Knox, Warren, Henderson, Henry and Mercer.
It appears that close to 25 percent of the general election voters in Champaign County voted before Election Day. County Clerk Gordy Hulten said the county had received 19,457 absentee or early voters as of last Monday. They were among the 78,215 ballots counted on Tuesday, equalling 24.8 percent.
Champaign County's biggest vote-getter was ...
Republican Recorder of Deeds Barbara Frasca. Of all the candidates running countywide and in a contested race, Frasca got 40,675. She even outpolled Obama.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays, He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.