Low Voter Turnout for Primaries

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

Voters across the Stateline cast their ballots Tuesday for local primary elections. There are contested mayoral races in Rockford, Belvidere and Freeport, as well as Machesney Park village president. But the excitement of last November's elections does not seem to have carried over to push more people to the polls.

"We have very very small turnout today so far. I know that I was thinking like ten percent and I think I've way overshot on that," says Winnebago County Clerk Margie Mullins.

The scene at the polls Tuesday is a far cry from the lines that formed for last November's general elections.

The Machesney Park Armory has seen the largest number of people voting in Winnebago County outside the city of Rockford, but it's still nothing compared to November, when 3,000 people flooded the building. As of 11:30 Tuesday morning, just 95 had voted there.

Voters who did take the time to cast a ballot are disappointed political interest seems to have faded so quickly.

Voter Marilyn Wedwick says, "Especially with this crisis that we've got now, it's so important to know what's going on."

"Granted we're not voting for president, but any election, whether it's local, state or national on those levels, I think they're all important," adds John Penney.

"It's something that every citizen should get involved in. Local politics, a lot of big decisions are made the way your local money is spent," says voter Bob Pilcher.

Many people thought November's political buzz would set the bar higher for voter involvement.

"You know I thought it would, I thought it would really really help," says Pilcher.

Penney adds, "We have a very short memory in this country and after the week goes by we tend to forget what it actually took to get to that milestone."

Those we spoke to also believe a smaller voting pool tends to skew elections, often in favor of incumbents.

County Clerk Mullins hopes the general city elections in April will spark more interest.

There are three other Winnebago County primaries, besides Machesney Park village president: A district one trustee for the village, as well as Harlem Township assessor and highway commissioner.

Mullins expects to have all votes tallied by eight o'clock Tuesday night. Only fifty people voted early or absentee. Polls close at 6:00 P.M.


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