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Fewer Voters Cast Ballots In Springfield, But Turnout Still Strong

early voting signs in the Sangamon County Complex
NPR Illinois

Fewer Springfield residents voted in Tuesday’s mayoral election than four years ago.

Around 25,000 voters cast ballots in Springfield’s mayoral race, which incumbent Jim Langfelder won, according to preliminary numbers from the Sangamon County Clerk’s office.

That’s around 2,000 fewer than voted in 2015, when he was first elected. Turnout was still around 35%.

Tom Holbrook – a political science professor at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee – studies turnout in municipal elections. He says that’s above the average of 25% among the cities he’s looked at.

“Springfield, if they’re coming in the low 30s, that’s pretty good. Especially given this is an election that didn’t coincide with a lot of statewide races,” he said.

He says the high turnout may be because of a competitive mayor’s race and Springfield’s position as the state capital.

Bloomington, which did not have a mayoral race, had turnout around 9 percent, while just one-in-three Chicagoans voted.

But many more voters took advantage of early voting and mail-in ballots. Around 3,700 ballots were cast by mail or in the clerk’s office before Election Day in 2015. That number jumped to 7,590 this year.

Holbrook says research shows more opportunities to vote before Election Day don’t generally lead to higher turnout because people who vote early are already consistent voters.

“They’re interested in politics. And because they’re interested they’re aware of these new opportunities so, they’re the ones that take advantage of them,” he said.

Same-day registration, he said, can bump turnout. Sangamon County does allow voters to register the same day they vote.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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