It was about 2 p.m. Tuesday when the six election judges stationed at Downers Grove Village Hill began discussing the fashions of the 1970s. Talk eventually turned to the disappearance of stirrup-style socks in baseball and the tendency of today’s players to wear full-length pants.
After all, the judges had to do something to pass time during a 14-hour election day marked by an underwhelming turnout.
According to the DuPage County Election Commission's summary report, only 6,430 of an eligible 33,314 Downers Grove residents voted in the mayoral and Village Council races. That’s a 19.3 percent turnout rate.
For the District 99 race, the rate was even lower—14.6 percent, or 10,616 of a possible 72,650 registered voters. Fewer than 19 percent turned out for the District 58 race and 19.2 percent participated in the Park District Board election.
“We knew it was going to be kind of low,” Village Hall election judge Tara Homner said of the turnout. “At one point, we had four voters [at once] and we were going to take a picture of them.”
Village Hall voter Maribeth Reilly, brought her young daughter, Jacqueline, along to vote Tuesday. The Downers Grove mom said she votes in every election out of civic duty.
“You can’t change everything,” Reilly said, “but if you don’t come out and cast your vote, you really can’t sit on the sidelines and complain.”
Village Hall wasn’t where Bernard and Jane Murphy were scheduled to vote, but as they walked toward their car on the way to the correct site, Bernard said it’s important to support the local government.
“We try to vote all the time to support the local issues,” Bernard said. “This one is mainly Village Council.”
Indeed, the Village Council election was the hot topic for the small group of voters Patch interviewed.
Robert Hayes, an 83-year-old resident who has lived in Downers Grove since 1955, said senior-citizen issues, such as the village’s Meals on Wheels budget cut and property taxes, were his top priority in voting Tuesday. He said the late endorsements and contention on the council can be a good thing.
“We have to have some additional opinions on there,” Hayes said. “I think there has to be a compromise, but the difference of opinion is certainly desirable.”
Jane Murphy agreed.
“I think discussion is always good,” she said. “It gets people thinking a little bit, at least.”
Fiscal issues were on the mind of voter Donald Wade as he left the polling station at the Downers Grove Recreation Center. He said he was spurred on by Mayor Ron Sandack’s last-minute email blast that endorsed the three winning candidates.
“Budgets are tight and somebody always thinks they can do better,” the 59-year-old accountant said. “It’s a tough time to be in public service... A lot of people think they can do things that they really can’t do.”
But opinions like those of Wade, Hayes, Reilly, and the Murphys were, for the most part, absent Tuesday. At about 4 p.m., one of the two Rec Center polling places had seen only 90 of a possible 1,300 voters. The other had 94.
“It’s usually pretty bad,” election judge Peg Hershberger said, “but 10 percent is horrible for a free country, isn’t it?”
Hershberger’s colleague, Norman Hunt, said it’s no wonder governing bodies are struggling.
“You can see how bad things would happen if that’s all that’s participating.”