There are a lot of reasons to expect a depressed primary election turnout in Illinois this year: an unusually late election;
a gush of negative, off-putting ads; and continued, baseless concerns about insecure voting.
Early voting and mail-in voting continues at county courthouses (and sometimes at satellite sites) throughout Illinois for next week’s unusually late primary election. Many election authorities are reporting fewer voters thus far than in the comparable 2018 midterm primary.
In Champaign County, for example, County Clerk Aaron Ammons reported Monday that 3,581 vote-by-mail ballots had been returned along with 1,916 in-person early votes cast. That’s slightly behind the numbers from four years ago.
In that 2018 election, turnout in Champaign County eventually numbered about 31,500 or about 26.3 percent of all registered voters. Ammons said that unless early voting picks up in the coming days, he expects the total primary election turnout to be between 2014’s 23,300 and 2018’s 31,500.
It’s obvious why primary election turnout numbers in Illinois would be lower this year. Perhaps the biggest reason is the abnormally late primary date, a result of late Census Bureau population numbers and the redistricting process. Illinois’ primary elections usually are held in March. But the June election means that many families are on vacation or fully engaged in summertime activities. Voting in a party primary is not top of mind.
Further, there are the ongoing, baseless concerns from the Trump wing of the Republican Party about the integrity of all elections (except the 2016 election that he won) and whether voting really matters. There also has been a flood of negative advertising in two Republican Party races that may have all but the most activist GOP voters wondering if any candidate is worth their support.
But avoid voting at your own peril. Studies have shown — and the results are seen in a badly divided Congress — that as political parties and primary elections have become dominated by the most ideological on both sides, the parties have moved farther and farther apart. And the independents and the moderate voices in both parties get drowned out and overwhelmed by ideologues. It has gotten so bad that last year, Gallup found that 62 percent of U.S. adults said the “parties do such a poor job representing the American people that a third party is needed.” That was the highest level of support for a third party since the question was first asked in 2003.
One way to overcome this political polarization is for all Republicans and all Democrats to take part in their party primaries and to not leave decisions to the most rabid and divisive voters choosing the most rabid and divisive candidates.
In-person early voting continues at county clerk offices throughout Illinois up to and including next Monday, the day before Election Day. Some smaller counties, including Ford and Piatt, will have special early voting hours on Saturday morning. Champaign County will have early voting hours at about a dozen sites on Saturday and Sunday.
Don’t miss this rare opportunity to influence local, state and national decision-making. By sitting out a primary election, you may be turning over control of your political party to the most extreme and even unelectable elements. That is good for no one.