Primary Election Day slow in Wilmette, save for dozens of civic-minded voters
Wilmette, 3/20/12--Volunteers initial paper ballots on election day at St. Augustine Church on Tuesday morning.
Updated: April 17, 2012 1:50PM
The battle between sun and civic responsibility wasn’t boding well for Wilmette ballot boxes Tuesday, as election judges across the village reported slow turnout during the first half of the day.
Those voters who did exercise their franchise generally said they were voting because it was important to do so, no matter how warm weather might entice them, or how obscure or uncontested various primary races might be.
“I vote because I’m a veteran. That’s who we are, that’s what I do,” Robert Rosenthal said after voting in Precinct 17. He was one of about 80 voters who visited the Wilmette Junior High School precinct in western Wilmette by noon Tuesday; that comprised less than 10 percent of the precinct’s 930 registered voters.
Election judge Richard Jones took the polling paucity in stride, saying “It’s the good weather,” but fellow judge Ebony Harvey said she hoped to see at least one or two more groups of voters walk through the door by 7 p.m.
Janice Rosenthal thanked the judges for their service before she stepped over to a touch screen voting machine: “I’ve done what you’re doing,” she told them.
Later, Rosenthal said she paid attention to Illinois Bar Association recommendations on whom not to vote for when voting for the numerous judicial candidates on the Democratic ticket she took.
The scene was equally quiet further west on the Wilmette-Glenview border. But the low turnout at Loyola Academy’s Precinct 40 — 47 of 656 registered voters, plus 25 absentee ballots — might just be because the polling place has fewer precincts than it did for the last election, said election equipment manager Irene Luber.
One Wilmette couple, Gina and John Hema, made election day a family outing; young William Hema sat on his mother’s lap as she navigated through her ballot (both Hemas took Republican ballots, “because I think we’re more interested in the Republican presidential primary,” Gina said.)
Voter Brian Pabich said he votes in every election.
“When I was working, I’d sometimes race home in the dark to get here,” Pabich said. He focused on the Republican presidential race and the votes for presidential delegates; Pabich also sounded vaguely mournful that redistricting had switched him from the 10th Congressional District, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Dold, into neighboring Democratic U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s 9th District.
Bummed by turnout
Earlier Tuesday, election judge Bill Fox was far more mournful at the modest turnout in Precinct 31. The precinct, situated at St. Augustine’s Church just east of downtown Wilmette, serves a large segment of the east end of the village, but only 75 of its roughly 1,000 registered voters had come through the door by 11 a.m.
“Usually we have 10, 12 waiting in the vestibule. Then you have the train crowd, then the school crowd and so on through the day,” Fox, a long-time judge, said. “We’re only at 7 percent. I don’t know why the numbers are so low.”
Voter Doris Lewy, who voted across the room from Fox, in Precinct 35, attributed the weak turnout to the lack of high-profile races, apart from the GOP presidential primary. She took a Democratic ballot herself, she said, and voted on several races, as well as on Wilmette’s electrical aggregation referendum proposal.
“If you don’t vote, you can’t yell about things afterward,” the Sheridan Road resident said before heading back out into the sunshine.
Fellow Sheridan Road resident Marylin Weber also took a Democratic ballot. She was interested in the judicial contests, and in the electrical aggregation ballot question, she said.
“I’m a regular voter. You only get one chance to influence (government). You can call them, you can send them letters, but the ballot is what they pay attention to,” Weber said.
Election judge Tom Van Heule helped preside over Precinct 35. He said the pace was much slower this year than it had been in previous primaries, with about 40 of 600 registered voters visiting by 10:30 a.m.
At Wilmette Village Hall, where Precinct 33’s 1,089 registered voters could exercise their electoral muscle, action was similarly quiet. About 92 residents had voted by 11:30 a.m., election judge William Wallin said.
One of them was Dave Garcia, who said he was most interested in the Democratic judicial races.
“There are some judges who aren’t qualified to work at McDonald’s,” Garcia said. “That’s why these (contests) are important.”