Early voting draws big numbers in region
BY ERIKA WURST AND SUSAN FRICK CARLMAN firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com October 25, 2012 4:18PM
Updated: November 27, 2012 10:51AM
Early voting in the Fox Valley is off to a running start.
Lines at the Messenger Public Library in North Aurora have been consistently long this week, as early voting began on Monday, said Kane County election judge Ralph Carlson, of Batavia.
“It’s been crazy,” Carlson said.
Carlson, who has been an election judge for more than a decade, said Thursday he has never seen such a turn out for early voting.
“Doing it early is so much nicer. I just know on Election Day people will be standing in line until 8 p.m.,” Carlson said.
North Aurora resident Mike Schlaeger will not be in that predicament.
Schlaeger and dozens of others showed up at the library Thursday to get their votes in early. He said he has made a habit of getting the task taken care of ahead of time.
“It’s a lot easier,” he said. “Today there’s been a line, but there will be lines anywhere… When voting day comes, I’ll be able to sit back, drink my coffee, and say, ‘I already cast my vote.’”
In Naperville, Lynn Zilinsky, a records specialist in the Naperville city clerk’s office in the Municipal Center, also used the term “crazy” to describe turnout on Monday’s first day of early voting.
“Yesterday was crazy,” said Zilinsky. “It’s huge for us, for the first day, anyway.”
“We had just under 5,200,” said Bob Saar, executive director of the DuPage County Election Commission, of the countywide voting numbers on Monday. “We’re doing an analysis of how that compares with last time.”
Saar said DuPage hopes to wind up with 25 percent of the voters casting their ballots through one or another of the early methods before Nov. 6. The county already is positioned to “easily double” the number of mail-in votes seen in 2008, when 8,900 people sent their ballots.
Kane County Clerk John A. Cunningham said 2,069 county residents voted on Monday, when early voting kicked off. Cunningham’s office reports 222,810 county residents on the voter rolls.
On Thursday afternoon, Cunningham said that 11,156 voters had already showed up at the polls, accounting for 5 percent of registered Kane voters.
Cunningham said the county sent out almost 3,600 absentee ballots. Another 195 residents have accessed the new grace period option, which enables people to register to vote and cast their ballots at the same time, until Nov. 3.
He said that the wider array of voting choices is a positive development for taxpayers.
“Had we not had the 50,000 votes cast early in 2008, we would have needed more equipment out in the field, and that would have cost $900,000 to $1 million,” Cunningham said.
In DuPage County, Saar said the volume of alternative voting participants enabled them to consolidate 748 precincts into 360 voting centers, saving an estimated $6 million.
The Aurora Election Commission also has seen brisk traffic by early voters throughout the week.
Through Wednesday, the commission tallied 1,121 early votes cast by Aurora residents living in Kane, Kendall and Will counties
The absentee voting alternative had drawn another 1,000 ballots, said Linda Fechner, executive director of the Aurora commission.
“What this election is seeing is a large turnout of early voting and absentee voting,” she said.
Fechner said the commission is ahead of 2008 numbers when early voting started a week earlier but ended three days sooner than it will this time.
Political organizations are promoting early voting, Saar said, for those who have already made their decision.
“The campaigns are leveraging that, to get their people out,” he said.