Champaign County clerk expects 20% of primary ballots to be cast early

Champaign County clerk expects 20% of primary ballots to be cast early

URBANA — Early voting in Champaign County expands to eight satellite sites today, and County Clerk Gordy Hulten said he thinks that 5,000 or more people could vote before Election Day.

That would be well over 20 percent of the anticipated turnout of around 24,000 to 25,000 total votes.

"We're at 2,700 ballots cast right now," he said Monday afternoon, "and we still have 1,000 Democratic vote-by-mail ballots out and 500 Republican ballots out, so I think it's reasonable to think that three-quarters of those will come back. That's another 1,200 votes.

"That gets us to 3,900, and I think we'll certainly be over 5,000 ballots cast prior to Election Day, maybe significantly beyond that."

Once voters try voting by mail or early voting one time, he said, "they very rarely go back to voting on Election Day."

Four years ago, in the last non-presidential primary election in Champaign County, 3,178 votes were cast before Election Day. Total voter turnout that year was 23,299.

The large number of early voters so far, plus the fact that the University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana schools are on spring break next week, could mean a quiet Election Day.

"Or if it ends up being anything like the Election Day we had in 2016, we'll be better prepared for it, having shifted thousands of voters to early voting and voting by mail," he said. "That's one of the reasons we promote it so heavily.

"But the million-dollar question is, are we shifting turnout within the parameters of what we historically get, or are we increasing turnout by having such incredible access to early voting and voting by mail? We'll find out next week."

The primary election is March 20.

Hulten contends that Champaign County provides greater access to early voting than any other election jurisdiction in Illinois.

"I base that on the fact that we run nine early-voting locations for 130,000 registered voters and our locations on perpetual. That means they're open for the entire period," he said. "Once they're open, they're not closed. Some jurisdictions go to a nursing home for an hour or so and they count that as an early-voting location."

The week of in-person early voting begins today on the University of Illinois campus with Illini Voting Day, as proclaimed by Illinois Student Government. Voting will be available for students and anyone else from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Room 213 of the Illini Union.

"I expect that campus' busiest day will be tomorrow," Hulten said Monday. "We are sending extra judges and extra stations to the Union to make sure we move people through as quickly as we can."

Any Champaign County voters can vote at any of the following early-voting sites:

— Room 213, Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., U

— Church of the Living God, 312 E. Bradley Ave., C

— Leonhard Recreataion Center, 2307 Sangamon Drive, C

— Meadowbrook Community Church, 1902 S. Duncan Road, C

— Lake of the Woods Park Pavilion, Mahomet

— The Gathering Place, 200 S. Century Blvd., Rantoul

— Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 802 S. Douglas, St. Joseph

— Tolono Public Library, 111 E. Main St., Tolono

Voting hours are the same at all sites: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.

Early-voting hours at the county clerk's office in the Brookens Center, 1776 E. Washington St., U, are longer: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday.

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