DuPage Democrats turn out for early voting, but Republicans dominate on Election Day

Early voting and mail-in totals in DuPage County appeared to lean largely Democratic Tuesday, but Republicans dominated in many local races with Election Day voting.

Joe Sobecki, assistant executive director of the DuPage Election Commission, said unofficial counts show about 109,000 people either mailed in votes or early voted at the 11 polling places set up around the county in the 15 days prior to the election.

An additional 8,000 voters came into the DuPage Election Commission office to early vote starting 40 days before the election.

The election commission released data Wednesday from those roughly 117,000 voters and the first nine reporting precincts. It showed that of the 10 contested county board races, six started with Democrats in the lead, but ended with Republican wins.

For example, Democrat Elizabeth Chaplin initially led by 57 percent in the race for the 2-year DuPage County Board District 2 seat, but she ultimately lost to Republican Richard Blass, who brought in 50 percent by the end of the night.

At the start of the night, Democrat and political newcomer Michelle Gale also had a lead with 53 percent of the vote for DuPage County Auditor, based on early voting, but she fell to 46 percent once the precincts started rolling in, resulting in a loss to Republican Bob Grogan.

In addition, the early numbers showed Democrats with a lead in the 5th Congressional District race and two Illinois House races - District 48 and 81 - that ended in Republican victories. The Democrats had an early lead with the Circuit Court Clerk as well, but lost.

Robert Peickert, chairman of the DuPage Democratic Party, said the group made a push for early voting to avoid the chances of anyone getting discouraged by long lines on Election Day.

"We had a lot more people in the streets, we had a lot more volunteers going door to door, telling people about early voting, where to go," he said.

Peickert said he doesn't know what kind of response residents had when approached by the volunteers, but at least they "had the information in their hands and I'm sure they took advantage of that."

The DuPage County Democrats were pleased with the large win Hillary Clinton had in DuPage, but said there are several reasons why those votes didn't trickle down the ballot.

"There are a lot of people that vote the top of the ticket and that's it," Peickert said. "It's on TV all the time and they say, 'I'm going to vote for the president, I'm going to vote for the senator,' and then they don't vote the rest of the way."

Peickert said the Democrats have been working in recent years to better educate voters about local candidates, but more work needs to be done. Overall, though, he felt the Democrat turnout was significant, even if it wasn't enough to beat the Republicans in many races.

"Some (Democrats) elected to come out early, which is because of our foot soldiers," he said. "I don't think it necessarily decreased the size of the same day voters."

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