Election officials around the country are gearing up for what promises to be a busy day at the polls next Tuesday. At the same time, thousands of voters are making it a priority to vote early instead.
33 states and the District of Columbia allow some type of early voting. In Illinois, Maryland and Tennessee, early voting ends today.
The Chicago Board of Elections, which oversees the election process in Chicago, confirms 71,732 people have voted early, as of yesterday. That's an increase of more than 50,000 early voters compared to the last Midterm Election in 2006. However, it's less than a third of the number of the people who voted early during the 2008 Presidential election (225,349) one day before early voting ended.
The head of elections for Illinois' largest county, Cook County, which has nearly 1.4 million registered voters, is predicting voter turnout at "maybe 50%" on November 2nd. Cook County Clerk, David Orr, based his prediction on the number of people who are early voting in the suburbs (72,000 as of yesterday) and the number of absentee ballots processed so far. This is the first year Illinois has allowed registered voters to vote absentee for any reason.
Voter turnout in Midterm election is traditionally lower than Presidential elections. The US Census bureau reports voter turnout for the 2008 Presidential election was the highest ever, at 64% while turnout for the 2006 Midterm election hovered around 48%.
Regardless, Republicans and Democrats are making the most of their last 5 days on the campaign trail, encouraging voters to head to the polls using large "Get Out The Vote" events as motivation. A prime example is the heated Illinois Senate race. This Saturday, President Barack Obama travels to Chicago to host a huge rally near the University of Chicago, hoping to give Illinois Democrats including Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias a boost before November 2nd.
At a press conference today in Chicago, Alexi Giannoulias told reporters, "What we're trying to do is make sure we have a big buzz leading into Tuesday. And at the end of the day, this election is going to be about turn-out. So, what we're doing is we're trying to energize a lot of folks..."
Giannoulias'challenger, Republican Mark Kirk, plans to hold his own Get Out The Vote rally for Republicans on Sunday night in Chicago featuring US Senator, Scott Brown, from Massachusetts.