There are few things important enough to draw residents out en mass during the cold winter months, but the upcoming primaries just might be one of them.
In Forest Park and across the state, voters in the Land of Lincoln could potentially help decide what has thus far been a closely fought national race for the party nod in the push to occupy the Oval Office. Illinois’ state and national primaries on Feb. 5 marks the earliest such date for this event and coincides with primaries in 21 other states. Already, record turnouts were noted in Iowa and New Hampshire where voters have weighed in on the race for party nominee.
But there are some intriguing local races shaping up as well, perhaps most notably the push to replace retiring state’s attorney Dick Devine.
At the Cook County Clerk’s office, spokesperson Gail Siegel said the outcome of the upcoming Illinois primary is unpredictable, in part because of the early date.
“We certainly have a historic primary coming up and I hope a lot of people come out to vote,” Siegel said. “People aren’t aware of how imminent it is.”
For whatever reason, local primaries do not usually draw large numbers of voters, according to Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz. The presidential primary in 2004 brought out 58 percent of registered voters in Forest Park while the gubernatorial primary in 2006 drew only 39 percent.
An obvious influence, she said, is the weather.
“If it’s a nice day more people will come out to vote” Moritz said.
During the country’s first presidential primary on Jan. 8, temperatures in the southern part of New Hampshire reached a high of 67 degrees and voters turned out in record numbers. More than 526,000 ballots were cast there, shattering the 2000 record of 396,385, according to information posted on the secretary of state’s website.
Weather patterns aside, three issues that have already helped pull large crowds on the campaign trail are immigration, the Iraq war and health care.
During several recent voter registration drives, Steve Backman and Mary Richie saw a higher turnout than usual and speculated the connections that democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have with Illinois also spurred interest. Both Backman and Richie are members of Citizens United in Forest Park, which sponsored several registration drives leading up to the deadline in early January.
The growing excitement over this primary season, as witnessed by Richie, brought longtime residents, immigrants and seniors out to register for the first time.
“I think the fact that they were not 18 or 19 year olds and were registering for the first time is indicative,” Richie said.
Forest Park currently has 7,458 registered voters.
Beginning Jan. 14 any registered voter can cast their ballot early at one of 44 sites in the area. There are no early polling stations in Forest Park, but several are located in neighboring communities. Further information about casting a vote in the upcoming primary can be accessed at the Cook County Clerk’s website, www.voterinfonet.com.