County Clerk: early voter turnout higher than expected

By Gus Bode

If the county’s early voting trends continue for the 2008 Illinois primary, election judges can expect to count more ballots during this year’s primary than in the past.

Jackson County Clerk Larry Reinhardt and his staff have collected nearly 240 ballots with a week remaining in the countdown to “Super Tuesday.” The ballots are a part of early voting, which is a new chance for voters to have their say weeks before the regular election. Reinhardt said 2008 being a presidential election year is one of the major reasons for such a strong turnout.

“It’s about what we expected for this primary,” Reinhardt said. “Of course we’re expecting a higher than normal turnout.”


He said it would not be a surprise if future elections have a higher turnout as early voting becomes more recognized.

Visiting Professor John Jackson of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute said the turnout is up because the Illinois primary was rescheduled to an earlier date. As a result, he said, the state will be a vital piece for both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.

Early voting also includes ballots submitted by voters registering with Jackson County during an extended application deadline, which expired on Jan. 22. These late registers had to cast a ballot as a part of their registration at the courthouse.

The county has been setting up shop in the Carbondale Civic Center for early voting, and will continue to do so until 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31. Early ballots can also be submitted at the county courthouse in Murphysboro until Feb. 4.

Four of Carbondale’s 29 voting precincts service university housing, which has caused the county to set up polling places on campus. Voters living in Brush Towers and surrounding area, including University Park and Southern Hills, will be able to cast their ballot at the polling place in the lower level of Grinnell Hall. Keith McMath, a coordinator for Brush Towers, said the county has the authority to use SIU’s facilities anytime since they are state property.

Other precincts scheduled to be on campus include Lentz Hall and University Hall. All voting precincts in Jackson County are open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.

All Jackson County voters will be given a paper ballot similar to a Scantron, requiring them to darken ovals next to their choice. The votes are scanned by a counting machine and saved onto a memory card. When polls close, memory cards tally up the votes and will allow election judges to determine the winner.


An older style ballot requiring voters to punch holes next to a candidate’s name has been discontinued throughout most all of Illinois, Reinhardt said.

This year’s primary will be the first time the Green Party will be recognized on the Illinois ballot instead of being write-in candidates. In order for a third-party to be recognized, candidates in a previous election must receive at least five percent of the vote. Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney received 11 percent during the November 2006 election.

New certification requirements prevent the ballot from being changed after Dec. 8, which means presidential candidates that have dropped out of the race since then will still be listed.

Daily Egyptian reporter Barton Lorimor can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 274 or [email protected].