Voter turnout ‘low to lethargic’
Mitt Romney won the Illinois Republican presidential primary Tuesday, though Rick Santorum carried Jackson County and much of rural Illinois.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who has made social issues a key part of his campaign, won Jackson County by 40 votes over Romney.
Santorum was widely seen as needing an upset victory in Illinois to have any hope at blocking Romney from amassing enough delegates to clench the party’s nomination before the national convention.
Romney, in his victory speech, portrayed himself as an economic expert after years spent in the business world — in sharp contrast to the work Obama did before reaching the White House.
“You can’t learn that teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago. You can’t even learn
that as a community organizer,” Romney said.
With 87 percent of precincts reporting as of press time, Romney had 361,116 votes, or 46.6 percent, and Santorum had 272,662 votes, or 35.2 percent. Ron Paul had 9.2 percent, and Newt Gingrich had 8 percent.
Romney won at least 38 delegates in Illinois, with 16 still to be determined.
Republican Jason Plummer won his party’s nomination in the 12th Congressional District.
He will face Brad Harriman in November in a race to determine who will replace longtime Democratic Representative Jerry Costello in a district that stretches from the Metro East to far southern Illinois.
“We anticipated low voting rates in the area, but we knew Harriman was going to do well,” said Hannah Ledford, Harriman’s campaign manager.
Plummer said having a hard-fought Republican presidential campaign in Illinois and a visit to Herrin by Santorum helped increase GOP turnout.
Tim Murray, a senior from St. Louis studying political science who worked at the Lentz Hall polling station Tuesday, said he suspects the voters were influenced by recent Republican campaigning in the area.
“I heard a lot of people talking about Republican candidate Rick Santorum as they were coming in. His recent visit (to southern Illinois) must have been effective,” he said.
Turnout was low across the state. In Sangamon County, a Republican stronghold in central Illinois, about 1 in 5 registered voters cast ballots. The numbers were about the same in the GOP-leaning suburbs of Cook County. Kane County saw similar results, although officials said turnout among Republicans topped 50 percent.
The lack of statewide races beyond the presidential contest likely played a role in holding down turnout, particularly among Democrats. It was the first Illinois primary since 2000 that didn’t include a race for U.S. Senate or governor.
About 30 people voted at the Lentz polling location, one of 68 locations in Jackson County.
Larry Reinhardt, Jackson County clerk and election official, said the county received a low turnout of voters.
“If I had to describe the turnout of today’s election, I would say anywhere from low to lethargic,” he said.
Only 13.73% of the 38,995 registered voters in Jackson County cast ballots, according to the county clerk’s office.
Murray said the turnout for the election was better than he was expected.
“Generally, a college town like Carbondale has more liberal views, so I was surprised to see so many people come out when the presidential competition was all Republican,” he said.
Murray said he does not think many people were concerned with the congressional primary election, especially students.
Evan Ehrenheim, a freshman from Owensboro, Ky., studying engineering, said he only voted because of the presidential election.
“Now I wish I knew more about the Congressional candidates, but I went into the polls anticipating only voting for the Republican presidential candidate,” he said.
Ehrenheim said he thinks the same is probably true for most people who voted Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.