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Local News

Will County turnout suffers, parties look toward general election

Voters in Lockport Township, New Lenox approve measures for ballot

The 2020 primary election in Illinois is mostly in the books.

While there are still some mail-in and provisional ballots to count, Will County politicians will now gear up for the general election in November.

As the country deals with the novel coronavirus outbreak, political parties must contemplate how a pandemic changes campaigning.

Low turnout

The voter turnout as of Tuesday night was about 24% in Will County.

That means 110,675 ballots were cast out of 453,582 registered voters, according to the Will County Clerk’s office.

That mark is well below the last presidential primary in 2016 when about 45% of registered voters turned out. Still, it’s slightly more than the last primary election in 2018 when a little more than 22% of voters turned out.

Charles B. Pelkie, chief of staff to Will County Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry, said he expected lower turnout for Tuesday in light of concerns over COVID-19.

“Obviously coronavirus concerns played a very large role in that situation,” he said.

There are still about 4,800 mail-in ballots that could be returned and counted. The last day voters could postmark their ballots was Tuesday.

Pelkie said it’s uncertain how many of those ballots will be returned.

He also didn’t have an exact number Wednesday about how many provisional ballots are left to count. The clerk’s office is scheduled to hold a public counting of provisional ballots March 31.

Ballot questions

Will County residents also voted to approve multiple ballot questions Tuesday.

Voters in the New Lenox Public Library District approved a measure to essentially redirect tax revenue so that the library could improve its services after paying off bonds for its building. The referendum passed by a 56% to 43% margin.

Library director Michelle Krooswyk posted a statement on the library’s Facebook page Tuesday.

“As a result of your support, the library will have sustainable funding to take care of our wonderful building for the foreseeable future, reach out to those that don’t know about our services and resources, and extend hours…finally!” Krooswyk wrote in the post.

A majority of voters in the Lockport Township Fire Protection District approved a modest tax increase that officials said would help pay for needed personnel and equipment.

The tax increase passed with just under 58% of the vote, with about 42% of voters disapproving.

A request by the East Joliet Fire Protection District to purchase emergency response vehicles and improve stations through $3 million in bonds passed. About 78% of voters approved the request, with 22% rejecting it.

A majority of voters in Rockdale said they’d like to allow marijuana businesses in their village. They approved a non-binding advisory referendum by a 55% to 45% margin.

Voters in Beecher appear to have narrowly approved the creation of a park district with the authority to tax. As of Tuesday night, 50.8% of voters said ‘yes’ while 49.2% said ‘no,’ a difference of just 11 votes, according to the Will County Clerk’s count.

Looking ahead

Now that the intra-party fighting is over, Will County Democrats and Republicans are setting their sights on each other with the general election ahead.

After several area Democrats at the county, state and federal levels faced competitive primaries, the party hopes to focus on unity going forward.

Bill Thoman, the chairman of the Will County Democratic Central Committee, said he had been planning a unity event next month with members of his party, although that plan was put on hold after gatherings of more than 50 people were banned.

Still, he said he was confident the party will coalesce around the candidates who won their primary races and focus on winning in November.

“We’re ready to move forward and support those candidates,” Thoman said.

George Pearson, the chairman of the Will County Republican Central Committee, said he’s still breaking down the data from Tuesday, but knows that candidates will have to stay nimble considering the COVID-19 outbreak.

He said candidates need to be prepared for campaigning under difficult conditions depending on when the pandemic subsides.

“We literally have to prepare for two different wars,” Pearson said.

Thoman said he’s also been thinking about how politics will play out in the age of COVID-19, but in the meantime, everyone needs to work under these difficult circumstances.

“I think we all long for that [normalcy],” Thoman said. “But it will take discipline for this short term so we can get to that point.”

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