In an effort to build momentum in the final days leading up to Election Day, Democratic candidates competing in two of the most hotly-contested congressional races met with supporters in Arlington Heights on Saturday to urge voters not to wait until November 6 to cast their ballots.
Early voting began in Illinois on October 22, and totals thus far have already kept pace with the records set in 2008, despite having one week less compared to four years ago.
As of October 28, more than 97,000 ballots had been cast throughout suburban Cook County, according to the Cook County Board of Elections website, about 40 percent of the total number of early votes cast throughout all of the 2008 election.
"If voters keep turning out in such large numbers, we may reach the Early Voting record set in 2008," Cook County Clerk David Orr said in a press release.
Political experts have viewed heavy early voting turnout in 2008 as one of the factors that helped President Barack Obama win the White House, as a majority of those individuals tended to vote for Democratic candidates.
Looking to seize upon that advantage, Democratic congressional candidates Tammy Duckworth, who is running in the 8th district, and Brad Schneider, who is running in the 10th district, joined longtime incumbent, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9) in a get-out-the-vote rally that concluded with Schakowsky walking two blocks with a number of supporters to a nearby polling station where she cast her ballot.
“Early voting is important because it creates a momentum,” Schakowsky said. “If we show that Democrats are coming out early and in large numbers, then it will help to build that kind of momentum that we need to get Democrats out between now and Election Day and on Election Day.”
Here is more from Schakowsky at the event:
Of the three candidates, Schakowsky was the only one who actually voted on Saturday. Duckworth said she was planning to vote on Election Day, while Schneider said he would vote sometime over the next few days.
Given the tight nature of many of the races this election cycle, both Republicans and Democrats see early voting as playing an even bigger role than it did in 2008, with projections indicating that as much as 40 percent of the electorate could be made up of those who have cast a ballot prior to November 6.
Thus far, early voting trends appear to be keeping in line with past elections, showing Democrats with an early lead in the race for president. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week, Obama led Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney 55 percent to 41 percent among those who have already voted.
Though not a swing state, early voting in Illinois could play a pivotal role in determining which party ultimately wins control of the House of Representatives. Six contests could go in favor of Democrats, who need a net gain of 25 seats in order to win a majority.
“As we stand here ten days away from Election Day, today and every day going forward truly is Election Day until November 6,” said Schneider. “It’s important that everyone stand up and be counted; that all of us make our voice heard at the ballot box.”
Here's more from Schneider:
Duckworth, whom the latest polls indicate has a ten percentage-point advantage over Tea Party-backed incumbent, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-8), urged the crowd of nearly 100 attendees to vote so as to counteract what she described as the efforts of “special interests” and “outside groups” to “silence” the voice of voters by pouring large sums of money into advertising in support of her opponent.
“In the last weeks and months we’ve seen Washington special interest and outside groups come in our state to try to silence your voices,” Duckworth said. “This is your chance to make a stand.”
Here's more from Duckworth:
Despite the projected increase in early voting this year, or maybe because of it, GOP-led legislatures in several states have led efforts to roll back the process by reducing the number of days in-person early voting can occur in swing states, such as Florida and Ohio.