Community / Featured / News / April 12, 2017

Election draws low turnout

In the April 4 local Galesburg election, incumbent John Pritchard was elected against newcomer Walt McAllister. Pritchard by a 15 point margin. (TKS Archives)

Last week Galesburg re-elected Mayor John Pritchard with only a 23.85 percent turnout rate of the 18,793 registered voters, according to totals from the City of Galesburg’s Election Commission website.

After a heavily contested mayoral race, challenger Walt McAllister ended with 42.49 percent of votes and Pritchard won 57.51 percent. Overall, McAllister won nine precincts, including precinct 13, Knox’s precinct, where he had the highest margin of victory.

Despite winning over precinct 13, only 16 percent of registered voters in that precinct voted. Due to low voter turnout in general, questions of how to further energize voters in the future were brought up by McAllister.

“We’re very, very disappointed in the turnout,” McAllister said in an interview with The Knox Student. “We really felt the difference between the two candidates would have sparked more interest, and sparked more people to get out and vote. There are people who have invested interest in making sure that voter registration and voter participation is low and that’s what they want. There were a lot of students who didn’t even realize they could vote.”

Despite the disappointment in the low voter turnout, McAllister stayed positive about the quality of the campaign he ran and expressed excitement for the future discourse within the Galesburg community.

“We ran the campaign we wanted to run, we got the message we wanted to get out, we feel it really resonated, we feel we did get quite a few new people involved and interested in what’s going on,” McAllister said. “So, that part of it, we’re really happy about. We’re happy we stayed out of the mud. The community response has been positive. People are glad we kept the message as it was and that we brought things up that needed to be brought up.”

In the April 4 local Galesburg election, incumbent John Pritchard was elected against newcomer Walt McAllister. McAllister owns Q’s Cafe on Main Street and hoped for higher engagement from the Galesburg community. Pritchard by a 15 point margin. (TKS Archives)

Although it is too early to tell if he will be running for the next mayoral election, McAllister did change the name of the Facebook page he used during his campaign to “Unify Galesburg” in an attempt to repurpose it. He hopes the group will continue to be used as a public forum to keep people involved and talking about issues such as the community center, green spaces and alternative energy options for the city.

Mayor Pritchard did not respond to an email and phone call from TKS asking for comment on the race, but released a statement to the Galesburg Register-Mail.

“I think whether you ran for mayor or alderman or whatever, I think the job issue was foremost in voters’ minds,” he said.

However, the mayoral position was not the only one up for election last week. Galesburg residents were able to weigh in on the school board election as well as a three-way race for city alderman in Ward Six.

Vickie Banks and Rod Scherp were elected onto the Community Unit School District 205 school board with 2,049 and 1,793 votes respectively, according to the results. Also running for school board was Gay Johnson, who came in third at 1,644, Isaiah Harlan, a senior at Galesburg High School, who came in fourth at 1,027 and Cole Kenan, who came in last with 661 votes.

Although he was not elected onto the board, Harlan was pleased with his results and was happy to see that he got over a thousand votes, which he believes shows that they were ready for a change in CUSD 205. Harlan’s main focus for his platform was student representation and giving a voice to the students within the district.

“They were ready to see something different and they were ready to see student representation,” Harlan said.

Despite the overall results, Harlan was also concerned with the low voter turnout. He mentioned that in the past, Galesburg High School brought in County Clerk Erickson to help register seniors who were old enough to vote. He also pointed to Obama’s use of social media to connect with young voters as strategies he’d like to see used more in Galesburg.

“Personally, I believe that voting is one of our most precious rights in the democracy and our republic. Obama really effectively utilized Rock the Vote. He was able to get a lot of young people out to these cool concerts he brought in,” Harlan said. “I think that was a really good idea, actually. I’d like to see Galesburg adopt that.”

City Alderman Corine Andersen of Ward Four, the ward which Knox is situated in, was re-elected uncontested.

In Ward Six, there was a three-way race between incumbent Wayne Allen and challengers Chris King and Torry Carnes. Allen came out victorious with 400 compared to King and Carnes who tied at 245.

If King had prevailed, she would have been the first transgender woman of color to serve as a city alderman in the state of Illinois. She also expressed disappointment with the low voter turnout, but was pleased that, compared to four years ago, her ward had more people voting.

“We have a pretty decent turnout for bigger elections like governor and presidential elections. When it comes to local elections, we never do great,” King said. “This year my ward had a lot more voters than it did four years ago. So, I think my ward’s turnout did really well, partly because myself and one of the other candidates were going door to door and talking to people and encouraging them to vote.”

King believes that the hours she and Carnes spent canvassing their ward had a direct effect on raising the number of voters. “When I ran into people, they would say ‘Well, I wasn’t going to vote, because I’m tired. I’m tired of the same old people getting in.’ And after talking to them, they’d say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go vote,’” King said. “[Overall] I think it’s disappointing. It’s extremely disappointing that [it was] such a low number of people.”

Emily Roberts ‘16, also expressed her anger and frustration with the low voter turnout. Before the election ended, Roberts had planned to volunteer in McAllister’s campaign. But, in the end, Roberts never got around to volunteering, even though she voted.

“I kind of feel partially responsible,” Roberts said. “How can I be upset that the candidate that I wanted to win didn’t, when I didn’t do anything?”

Sierra Henry, Co-News Editor on Email
Sierra Henry, Co-News Editor
Sierra Henry is a senior Political Science major who is minoring in journalism. During her time at Knox she has had her work published in the Robinson Daily News, the Galesburg-Register Mail and Cellar Door. In the summer of 2017 she studied abroad in Bologna, Italy where she worked as a student foreign correspondent.

Tags:  city of galesburg Galesburg galesburg race john pritchard local election local politics mayoral election voter turnout Walt McAllister

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