Presidential Election Year Might Impact Outcomes
O'Konowitz, Tom, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Tom O'Konowitz Daily Herald Staff Writer
With the presidential election on next Tuesday's ballot, experts are certain exceptionally more people than usual will get out to vote. But experts aren't as certain about what that will mean for the many local referendum questions on the ballot.
Traditionally, local governmental bodies try to stay away from presidential elections, instead choosing to place referendum issues on ballots expected to draw lower voter turnout, according to Ron Michaelson, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. That's because local officials believe they can more easily persuade a smaller crowd to support their efforts, he said.
"When there's a small turnout, the people who vote are more likely to be the people who support the bond issues. The people who oppose them are less likely to go vote unless there's a major negative stir around a campaign," Michaelson said. "The larger turnout usually means you see the people who oppose the bond issues voting because they want to get out and vote for the president."
Still, Michaelson said, that's an assumption, and not necessarily the rule.
"Quite often, schools and cities put referendums out in odd- numbered years when not as many people vote because they think it will have a better chance of passage, but that's not always the case," he said. "It's not an exact science at all."
McHenry County Clerk Katherine Schultz agreed with Michaelson's generalization that local districts try to avoid presidential elections for their ballot items, but she pointed out that her county has 35 questions on the ballot next week.
"Usually they think they have a better chance of passage when there's a smaller turnout," she said. "We still have quite a few issues, though."
In McHenry County, Schultz said she expects to see around 75 or 80 percent voter turnout next week - more than the 65 percent in the 1996 presidential race and 65 percent in 1992.
And that's much higher compared to non-presidential election turnouts like 44 percent in November 1998 and 55 percent in Nov. …