20% Early Voter Turnout Projected in Champaign County
By Jim Meadows
The number of early and absentee ballots cast in Champaign County in advance of Tuesday’s election is nearly double the number cast four years ago.
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said his office had collected 18,892 early and absentee ballots as of around 11:30 AM on Monday. That’s up from about 8,700 Champaign County ballots cast early in 2008.
Hulten says early voting is clearly a popular option. He says said decision to add several new early voting locations this year is one reason for the increase in votes cast before Election Day. He says voters appreciate the additional options.
“And it is simply another way for a voter to exercise a choice,” said Hulten. “All voters, when they vote, they get to exercise choices in what selections they make on their ballot. Early voting gives them the additional choice of the time and the location of casting their ballot.”
Hulten’s Democratic challenger, Urbana Alderman Charlie Smyth, said more could be done to broaden early voting’s reach by extending the hours for Early Voting centers. Smyth said that would help voters whose work hours make it hard to get to polling places during the day.
“Technically by law, they should be allowed to take up to two hours (for voting),” said Smyth. “But many may not be able to give up that time. If they’re hourly paid, it may not be possible. And so, I think some evening hours some nights; afternoon hours on Saturday and Sunday at some of these locations is another possibility.”
County Clerk Hulten predicts that when the final tally in made in a couple of weeks, about 20% of votes cast in Champaign County for the November election will have been cast by early and absentee voters. If elected to a full term, the Republican Hulten says he wants to increase access to early voting in the next election.