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In troubled Illinois, voters forfeit their voice

Published: Saturday, March 29, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

A two-part tradition accompanies every spring election in Illinois.

Part 1: County clerks predict low voter turnout.

Part 2: Voters prove them right.

It happened here again during the March 18 primary, which featured such important races as governor, Congress, the U.S. Senate, county sheriffs, judges, county board members and a host of referendums about taxes, school consolidation, fire protection, electric supply and alcohol sales.

Those races and ballot questions are not insignificant. Illinois has an unprecedented financial crisis on its hands, causing a backlog of unpaid bills, painful choices at public school districts statewide, cuts to state services and programs, unaddressed road and bridge repairs, and what many consider an unfriendly business climate for job creation.

Dysfunction and partisan bickering in Congress haven’t escaped voters’ attention, either.

As a result, Illinoisans have a lot to be worried about. So it stands to reason that they would have sprinted for the polls Tuesday to make their displeasure known. Instead, most of them forfeited their chance to have a say in which candidates get to move on to the November general election.

Voter turnout in Sangamon County was 23 percent, a little better than County Clerk Joe Aiello’s prediction earlier in the day that fewer than one in five registered voters would cast a ballot.

Montgomery County’s turnout was nearly 22 percent, and Morgan County’s was about 21.5 percent. Logan County had a 27 percent turnout.

One bit of redeeming news is that Springfield-area voters showed more interest in the election than those in Chicago and Cook County, where turnout was just under 16 percent in the city and the county.

The general election is Nov. 4.

Illinoisans say they want better elected representatives and better outcomes.

That can happen only if they hold themselves accountable first by getting to the polls on Election Day.

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