Early voting in Tazewell increased 45 percent

Sharon Woods Harris

Lines formed at the Tazewell County Clerk’s Office as crowds of voters cast their ballots ahead of the Nov. 2 general election last week.

Tazewell County Clerk Christie Webb said the number of voters coming in early greatly exceeded her expectations and was an all-time high. Early voting started on Oct. 11 and ended Thursday.

Early voting in Illinois started in the 2006 general election. Prior to 2006, a voter could only vote early if there was a good reason, such as they would be out of town on Election Day or scheduled for surgery.

“Two weeks ago I wouldn’t have said there would be a 30 percent increase in (early voters),” said Webb last week. “At this point I see a 45 percent increase over last year.

“Saturday in just three hours we had 58 voters. On Sunday in just two hours we had 60 voters. I am very pleased.”

Webb said it is impossible to know what the driving force behind the increase was this year.

“Sometimes there may be issues on the ballot,” said Webb. “This time we have three — a North Pekin/Marquette Heights issue, another Marquette Heights issue and a Washington issue. Or it could be a particular race.”

North Pekin Marquette Heights District 102 was seeking a four-year increase in its property tax extension and the city of Marquette Heights was seeking to legalize the sale of alcohol to entice a nice restaurant to purchase property on Illinois Route 29. Washington Community High School District 308 had a referendum on the ballot to sell bonds for a building project.

On the ballot this year was the race for governor between Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bill Brady. While turnout for a gubernatorial race doesn’t bring out the numbers a presidential race does, it could be a factor this year after the impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Another possibility for the increase was the highly contentious race for Tazewell County Sheriff between incumbent Sheriff Robert Huston and challenger Ron Davis.

Any registered voter who wants to vote early is allowed to do so regardless of the reason. No-excuse voting by absentee ballot continued until 5 p.m. Monday. The time frame to change an address for a new precinct expired on Oct. 26.