McHenry County turnout ranged from less than 2% to nearly 30% in April 6 election
With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting gatherings, the League of Women Voters of McHenry County sought to make their candidate forums and other election events more convenient, the chapter president said.
The group received a lot of feedback and saw a lot of reposting of the content on their Facebook, Catherine Williams said, but added it is difficult to say why this didn't translate to a higher voter turnout.
"It's historically been low," Williams said. "I've always, always tried to emphasize that local elections probably matter the most to the day-to-day voter."
Voter turnout in the April 6 consolidated election came in at 9.52% countywide, as it has been in past years, according to McHenry County clerk's office data. Some precincts saw less than 2% turnout.
While turnout in some precincts reached just more than 28%, the overall number of people who voted this year dismayed some elected officials and candidates.
Crystal Lake Mayor Haig Haleblian, who won his election, called the county's voter turnout rate "extremely disappointing."
"Nine percent of the public had an interest in an election that affects them the most," Haleblian said. "People either don't know or they don't care. As much as we try to put the information out there and get people energized and involved, it just seems to be, unfortunately, the way things are going these days."
Voter participation in local elections typically isn't high unless a hotly contested race or one that really touches people's pocketbooks is on the ballot, Williams said. The league, in addition to forums, created a voter guide that allowed people to enter their ZIP code and get a list of races and candidates in their area.
McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio said there's less money, advertising and disputes in local elections compared to federal and state races, and many consolidated races are nonpartisan.
People might also be weary of politics, Tirio said, especially as this election comes on the heels of the highly charged November 2020 presidential election.
Another issue when it comes to elections is it can be hard to find people to run for office, Tirio said. It can be a rough business, he said, with many risks involved.
Nearly three-quarters of McHenry County races were uncontested, with about 16% with either no candidates running or not enough to fill all the open seats, county clerk data shows.
But even when a precinct had a higher percentage of competitive races, this didn't necessarily mean turnout was higher too.
Algonquin 37 -- a narrow precinct that ran along the southwest side of South Virginia Road just south of where it meets Route 14 -- had seven out of 15 races on the ballot competitive, including the Crystal Lake mayoral contest, but saw less than 2% of registered voters turn out. Just seven ballots were cast there.
Many factors determine whether voters go to the polls, Tirio said, even the weather.
As county clerk, Tirio said he has to be thoughtful of how he involves himself in elections.
"I think another way that the public shows their support is obviously voting, but also encouraging others to vote," Tirio said. "But beyond that, I think it's I think it really is mostly left up to the candidates to drive it."