Southern Illinois county clerks surprised by voter turnout - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois county clerks surprised by voter turnout

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WSIL -- Big races brought out a record-setting voter turnout across the nation. More than 113 million voters cast ballots in the midterm election on Tuesday.

Southern Illinois voters also broke records. Gallatin County saw a 59 percent turnout. Johnson and Williamson Counties hit 60 percent and in Union County, a 63 percent turnout. 

Jackson and Williamson Counties both saw a major increase from the last midterm election. Between the two counties, almost 50,000 people come out to vote in Tuesday's election which surprised county clerks. 

Larry Reinhardt has been the Jackson County Clerk for 20 years, and says he has never seen a turnout like this. 

"This is the biggest voter turnout we can find on record," Reinhardt said. "The next highest was in 1998 when Glenn Poshard ran for governor here in the state. We were well pleased with the heavy turnout throughout the county but especially in Carbondale."

In the last midterm elections in 2014, more than 16,000 voted (41%) voted in Jackson County. And nearly 21,000 (48%) voters went to the polls in Williamson County. 

During Tuesday's midterm election, each county saw 5,000 more voters. 

That's 20,000 (50%) voters in Jackson County and 27,000 (60%) in Williamson County. 

"We were surprised, but we were prepared," Reinhardt said. "To be honest, many of the ballots that were cast, about 25 percent, were early or by mail. We had over 5,300 ballots cast prior to the election."

Political Scientist, Dr. John Jackson, at the Paul Simon Institute at SIU says this election was the biggest he has ever seen. 

"It was an explosive turnout in some areas," Johnson said. "What caused it was a very excited and angry base on one side facing off with immobilized, very angry base on the other side. That's a sure fire formula for voter turnout."

News 3's Emily Manley asked Jackson what caused the increase at the polls.

"The government was dysfunctional for two years," Johnson said. "The two most basic things that the government has to do is to provide for the common defense, public safety, and finance the government by adopting a budget. The state couldn't do that for two years."

With the next major election two years away, Johnson says to expect an even high voter turnout for the presidential election. 

"I think it will explode in 2020 because everyone is going to be mad at the other party and Trump will continue to stir the pot because that's what he does best," Johnson said. 

County Clerks in both Williamson and Jackson Counties said they had about 5,000 people early vote for the midterm election, which is more than normal. 

When comparing this midterm election to a presidential election, both said this midterm election fell short by about 5,000 voters. 

Click here for election results in Williamson County and click here for results in Jackson County. 

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