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updated: 4/5/2011 8:57 AM

Why local Election Day is important

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  • Volunteer Akibu Rease, a second-year grad student at Loyola University, sets up voting machines Monday at the Palatine Township polling place at the Groves of Hidden Creek clubhouse in Palatine.

       Volunteer Akibu Rease, a second-year grad student at Loyola University, sets up voting machines Monday at the Palatine Township polling place at the Groves of Hidden Creek clubhouse in Palatine.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer Akibu Rease, a second year grad student at Loyola University, sets up voting machines Monday at the Palatine Township polling place at the Groves of Hidden Creek clubhouse in Palatine.

       Volunteer Akibu Rease, a second year grad student at Loyola University, sets up voting machines Monday at the Palatine Township polling place at the Groves of Hidden Creek clubhouse in Palatine.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer Akibu Rease, a second-year grad student at Loyola University, sets up voting machines Monday at the Palatine Township polling place at the Groves of Hidden Creek clubhouse in Palatine.

       Volunteer Akibu Rease, a second-year grad student at Loyola University, sets up voting machines Monday at the Palatine Township polling place at the Groves of Hidden Creek clubhouse in Palatine.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Turnout for local elections

    Graphic: Turnout for local elections

 
Daily Herald staff report

It's not nuclear disarmament, but today's election is arguably the most important one suburban voters face -- if they care about their schools, their streets, their local economy, their recreation.

According to a Daily Herald analysis, 528 races are on the ballots in suburban Cook, Lake, Kane, DuPage and McHenry counties. Still, consolidated local elections usually inspire only 1 in 5 voters to hit the polls, despite the tens of millions of dollars at stake.

"The people who have the time and energy to understand and follow politics know that many, many important issues are settled at the local level," Cook County Clerk David Orr said. "Decisions are made over how a town grows, how tax money is spent."

Not only are voters scarce at local elections, but in many cases so are candidates. Of the 528 races, 238 are contested. School boards and municipalities have raised the most interest, with about half of races contested. But 47 of 70 library boards are uncontested, 16 of 24 fire protection districts, and 49 of 74 park districts.

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