Metro East Democrats feel the Bern, but region overall trends GOP

By Bob Pieper For Chronicle Media
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigns in Metro-East prior to the Illinois primary election on March 15. (Photo courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigns in Metro-East prior to the Illinois primary election on March 15.
(Photo courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville)

Statewide, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scored a victory in Illinois’ March 15 Democratic presidential primary.

However, her Democratic primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, won four out of five counties in Metro East.

Like GOP voters statewide, Republicans in all five Metro-East counties went for New York businessman and self-proclaimed political outsider Donald Trump.

In what some political observers are calling a potentially historic shift, primary results suggest the GOP is continuing to gain strength in Southwestern Illinois.

County clerks offices across Metro East reported greater than anticipated voter turnout in this year’s primaries. In both Madison and St. Clair counties, total vote count increased by more than 10,000, compared with the 2008 primary elections. In Monroe County, almost half of all registered voters turned out to cast primary ballots this year, up from just over a third eight years ago.

The sharp increase in turnout resulted in ballot shortages at more than a dozen polling places across Metro-East, with county clerks’ offices rushing at mid-day to print and deliver additional ballots to polls.

Amid concerns over potential vote fraud, balloting in St. Clair County was monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s and County Clark’s offices, under a new county Voter Integrity initiative.

Teams from the Illinois Attorney General’s offices monitored elections across the Metro-East, as part of a statewide effort. However, other than the ballot shortages, no election-day voting irregularities had been reported by any of those agencies as of the Chronicle’s deadline.

On the Democratic side, Clinton won St. Clair County with 57 percent of the electorate (20,987 votes), compared to 42 percent (15,565 votes) for Sanders.

However, Sanders defeated Clinton in:

–Madison County, 54.5 percent (18,723) – 44.6 percent (15,332);

–Monroe County, 54.5 percent (1,775) – 44.1 percent (1,436);

–Jersey County, 55 percent (1,069) – 44 percent (886); and in

–Clinton County, 58 percent (1,266) – 41 percent (906).

Republican candidate for president Donald Trump

Republican candidate for president Donald Trump (Photo courtesy

In the GOP primaries, Trump swept all five Metro East counties, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz finishing second and Ohio Gov. John Kasich a distant third in each. County clerks’ offices reported Republican primary results for the top three candidates as follows:

–St. Clair County: Trump – 41 percent (11,650), Cruz – 37 percent (10,534), Kasich – 13 percent (3,584);

–Madison County: Trump – 43.1 percent (15,588), Cruz – 36.6 percent (13,259), Kasich – 10.7 percent (3,866);

–Monroe County: Trump – 42.9 percent (3,272), Cruz – 34.6 percent (2,640), Kasich – 11.3 percent (866);

–Jersey County: Trump – 48 percent (1,902), Cruz – 36 percent (1,449), Kasich – 8 percent (320);

–Clinton County: Trump – 44 percent (2,522), Cruz – 37 percent (2,142), Kasich – 10 percent (539).]

In St. Clair County, 38.9 percent of registered voters cast ballots last week, compared with 31.38 percent during the 2008 primaries.   In Madison County, 41.75 percent of voters turned out for this year’s primaries, up from 36.92 percent in 2008. In Monroe County 46.3 percent of registered voters showed up at the polls, up from 35.1 percent in 2008.

Metro East has long been a Democratic stronghold, but growing Republican turnout is being cited by election officials across the area as a factor in this year’s overall increase in primary election participation.

While Democratic voters continued to outnumber Republicans at St. Clair County polling places this year, GOP turnout exceeded that for Democrats in Madison and Monroe counties.

In St. Clair County, 28,567 Republicans cast ballots in this year’s primary, compared with 15,078 in 2008. The total vote count for Democrats in the county decreased to 40,218 this year from 43,470 in 2008.

In Madison County, some 36,132 ballots were cast in this year’s Republican primary, nearly doubling the 19,454 GOP ballots cast in 2008. A total of 34,798 ballots were cast in the county’s Democratic primary this year, down from 40,758 in 2008.

In Monroe County, the GOP vote count more than doubled to 7,760 this year from 3,655 in 2008. The number of primary voters casting ballots as Democrats fell to 3,309 this year, down from 4,272 in 2008.




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