Polling place at Lake Street Church Downtown.

“Extra bad.”

That’s how the head of the Democratic Party of Evanston termed in-person voting turnout Tuesday morning on primary election day.

Rachel Ruttenberg was checking various polling places around town, where party volunteers were passing out sample ballots containing the DPOE endorsements.

As of around 9:30 a.m., Ruttenberg, who was outside the voting site at Lake Street Church, said turnout around town was “very low.”

There’s even a chance that when all the ballots are counted, mail-in votes will have outnumbered those cast in person.

As of the middle of last week, 4,366 Evanstonians had reequested mail-in ballots. That number is no doubt higher by now.

Early voting in-person, which ended Monday, saw 3,049 people cast their ballots at the single early voting location at the Civic Center.

In the last primary, in 2018, 5,604 people voted early.

Ruttenberg has several thoughts on why this year’s primary turnout is so anemic.

“People respond to the top of the ticket,” she said, and with Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker facing only token opposition, not having a spirited battle for the governor’s nomination “is driving the apathy among Evanston voters,” even with competitive Democratic races for Secretary of State and Cook County Assessor.

Plus, Evanston is so heavily Democratic that the high profile battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination won’t generate too many ballots, because the GOP in town is such a tiny fraction of the electorate.

But poll workers are still out there, trying in particular to get voters to make choices “down ballot,” for races like judge, where multiple people are running in multiple races.

That’s where the sample ballot can play an “extremely important role,” Ruttenberg says, in giving voters the party’s preferred candidates.

Of course, voters are motivated by issues. Or at least they’re supposed to be.

Ruttenberg says that the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, while it was “heartbreaking and awful,” might, “in a very small way, be a silver lining” on Primary Election Day.

“Maybe,” she says, ” a few more people will be motivated to turn out today.”

The polls close at 7 p.m.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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