CHICAGO – Voters trickled into the polls Monday, the first day of early voting for primary contests that’ll help determine Illinois’ next governor, a U.S. senator and numerous local offices.
Election officials reported a sluggish start with some predicting that the latest blast of wintry weather and a holiday that closed some municipal offices might have kept people away. Others said it was still early for people to have made up their minds, particularly with a four-way Republican gubernatorial race.
“It’s not long lines,” Madison County Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza said.
Roughly 100 people cast ballots at a county poll in the southwestern Illinois town of Edwardsville by midday. At a Peoria County spot, only one person had shown up before noon. In a Sangamon County location, less than two dozen cast ballots by afternoon.
Still, election officials and candidates said a later-than-usual voting period and young voters might help boost numbers later on. Early voting runs the Saturday before the March 18 primary and the 2014 contest marks the first time that 17-year-old Illinoisans can vote, provided they are 18 by the November election.
Few election officials expected a large early-voting turnout for the primary.
Statewide, about 8 percent of voters cast early ballots in the 2010 and 2012 primaries, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. The board didn’t have Monday turnout estimates.
“It is off to a slow start,” executive director Rupert Borgsmiller said. “The weather has dragged down a lot of the people.”
In the Chicago area, election officials were optimistic on Casimir Pulaski Day, a holiday honoring a Polish cavalry officer. Early voting locations were open, though city and Cook County offices were closed.
Roughly 12 percent of Chicago voters cast an early ballot in the 2010 and 2012 primary elections, according to election officials.
“We do expect it to build,” said Langdon Neal, chairman of Chicago’s Board of Election Commissioners.
Among those who showed was Thomas Plum, a teacher who said he usually votes early. The Democrat said he voted straight ticket and was motivated by recent Chicago schools closures.
“It works for me,” he said.
Retirees Doug Wilson and his wife April Smith, both 57, pulled Republican ballots in Springfield. The couple lives in Florida part-time and wanted the convenience before they head south.
Wilson said he’s waiting until November to vote for a gubernatorial candidate.
“The governor, if anything is going to come up in the next couple of weeks, is just going to be some nasty piece of business I don’t want to hear anyway,” he said. “I’m really more curious with who the candidate is going to be than the process.”
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who is seeking re-election, faces Chicago area primary challenger, activist Tio Hardiman. Four Republicans are running: Treasurer Dan Rutherford, businessman Bruce Rauner and state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard.
While Illinois candidates made a push for early voting over the weekend, most of the gubernatorial candidates didn’t vote Monday. Quinn told The Associated Press that voters should take advantage of having the extra time, but that wouldn’t be his approach.
“I vote on Election Day,” he said.