More than half of registered voters turned out to vote Tuesday, a substantial increase over the last midterm election, data shows.
Some 55.6 percent of voters in Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties cast ballots in the election, with the largest percentage coming in Tazewell County where retiring Tazewell County Clerk Christie Webb saw the highest midterm election turnout in her 24 years in office, she said.
Some 57.65 percent of that county's 90,595 registered voters turned out.
“It was up probably 6.5 percent over four years ago,” she said.
In 2014, voter turnout was 51.23 percent in Tazewell County and about the same in 2010. In 2006, it was at 47 percent.
Peoria County, meanwhile, saw turnout that was almost 10 percentage points higher than the 2014 midterm elections — nearly 54.5 percent Tuesday compared to 46 percent in 2014 and about 48 percent in 2010.
Both political parties encouraged residents to take advantage of vote-by-mail initiatives, said Tom Bride, the executive director of the Peoria County Election Commission.
Voter registration numbers themselves remained "really strong" as well, he said.
Though registrations usually dip after presidential election years, they only faded slightly in Peoria County from 2016, he said.
That's despite the fact that two years ago "we saw a huge social media push (for voter registration) that we didn't see this time," Bride said.
In the spring, the Tazewell County elections office acquired 80 new touch-screen voting machines and 80 ballot tabulators. This newer technology was used in Tuesday’s election.
“It proved to be a lot less complicated for the judges,” she said.
The county was, however, "very, very short" on election judges, Webb said.
“Surprisingly, I did not have any complaints,” she said. “The judges seemed to keep up pretty well. I don’t know if it’s the process with the new machines. They didn’t have as many questions.”
A worker at Webb’s office said they were having “hang ups” when a GateHouse Media Illinois reporter called about voting numbers not being on the Tazewell County Elections website after 8 p.m. Webb said that it was an internet issue. She said the process takes time.
“We live in a world of instant gratification and everybody feels that all you have to do is punch a button and you get the results. There’s logistics involved to get all this stuff checked in. We never had an issue of any kind,” Webb said.
The polls close at 7 p.m. and the farthest voting place — Armington — is a 40-minute drive from where the votes are tabulated at the end of the night at the McKenzie Building in Pekin.
“We probably had our first upload at 8:30 (p.m.). We were done by 10 til 10 p.m.,” she said. “I was quite pleased with the timing of it.”
In the future, Webb said what she thinks would increase voting is to change the voting process.
“I think if (the public) truly wants to increase voter turnout (they should) go to all mail-in voting. And I say that tongue-in-cheek because I know you will never be able to not have precinct sites open, but if the Legislature would allow us to limit them. The fact that we have so much trouble getting judges, and locations and the logistics of getting the votes in that night, if we sent everybody a ballot and an application that were an active registered voter, I think you’d see your percentage go up."
Woodford County's turnout was the lowest in the Tri-County Area, 54.3 percent.