Evanston, Cook County see record number of early voting


Daily file photo by Meghan White

A student votes in the 2012 elections. Early voting is at a record high in Evanston and suburban Cook County.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

Almost 100,000 more people in suburban Cook County have taken advantage of early voting this election than 2012, County Clerk David Orr said Monday.

315,375 people cast their vote in the area as of Monday morning, Orr said at a press conference. According to data from the Clerk’s office, over 228,000 people voted early in 2012, with total voter turnout coming to 70.7 percent. Early voting was lower in 2008, but overall turnout was higher at 73.5 percent. Orr said he expected between 30,000 and 40,000 more people to vote on Monday.

“No matter what the results are tomorrow night…the real winner will be early voting,” he said. “I am very impressed with the voters.”

Cook County residents can vote early by mail absentee-ballot voting and grace period voting, which applies to those who missed the registration deadline, but registered and voted at the same time before Election Day.

Voters from Evanston and some neighboring municipalities were able to vote early at the Civic Center for the past two weeks. City Clerk Rodney Greene said about 1,000 people had voted early every day during the early voting period.

“They’re breaking records this year,” he said at Monday’s city council meeting.

Approximately 15,000 people had voted as of Monday, he said, with about 2,000 more expected that evening.

According to data from the Clerk’s website, the number of early voting had increased 38 percent since the 2012 election. Mail voting had increased by 88.5 percent from the previous presidential election

Orr said he was expecting a “big turnout” on Election Day. Since 2000, Illinois’ presidential voting turnout has averaged about 73 percent.

Evanston ranked among the five busiest early-voting sites in suburban Cook County, along with Northbrook and Arlington Heights. Orr said part of the reason some North Shore towns have high rates of early voting is because of local races. The congressional race in the 10th district between incumbent Bob Dold (R-lll) and Democratic challenger Brad Schneider, who previously held the seat, is particularly contentious.

“The presidential election affects nearly everything,” he said. “But when you’ve got a hot race in the 10th congressional district that does account for some.”

Orr said the same-day voter registration allowed at all polling places would help increase turnout. The option was almost limited to only a few voting sites per county after a lawsuit, but a higher court struck down the ruling and reinstated same-day registration last month.

Orr said he was relieved about the ruling that restored same-day registration in highly populated counties.

“Thank goodness it is going to be in the polling places because that is the most effective way to have Election Day registration,” he said.

Orr said having same-day registration in all polling places is especially important after Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the automatic voter registration bill. 700,000 Illinois residents are registered to vote and may not be aware that they need to update their registration, but Election Day registration helps that problem, Orr said.

“There are hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters in the state of Illinois, that believe they’re registered, did everything right,” Orr said. “But because we didn’t pass that law, they haven’t always been updated to their current address.”

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Twitter: @noracshelly