A full week after the U.S. presidential election, the Landmark published an article about how voters in each village cast their ballots – for the winner, Joe Biden, as it turned out – but toward the end of that article we noted one head-scratching bit of data.
At the time that article was written, on Nov. 9, the Cook County Clerk was reporting vote totals that seemed at odds with what our eyes had been telling us since early voting kicked off in mid-October.
Incredibly, we noted, the total number of votes cast in Brookfield and Riverside was lower than for the presidential election in 2016. In the case of Brookfield, at the time, the clerk’s office was reporting more than 650 fewer votes cast. The only exception was North Riverside, which recorded a few dozen more votes than in 2016.
Well, it turns out there was a very good reason for that puzzling data: the Cook County Clerk was still counting votes.
That counting lasted all the way until the day before Nov. 24, when Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough announced she had certified the election results.
The final tallies showed that Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside voters, as we had suspected, actually had turned out in droves. And local voter turnout in each of the three villages was higher than the rest of suburban Cook County.
Overall, suburban Cook County voter turnout was 71.2 percent, a figure pretty much in line with prior presidential elections and a little bit lower than in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2016.
But, that percentage appears to have been connected to the number of people registered to vote, because 100,000 more suburban Cook County voters cast ballots in 2020 than in 2016.
Those lines outside Brookfield Village Hall during the early voting period were no mirage. According to the clerk’s office, “Cook County suburban voters shattered previous records for early voting and voting by mail, with 76 percent of votes being cast prior to Election Day.”
In all, according to the clerk, 913,358 of the 1,188,017 ballots cast in suburban Cook County for the 2020 presidential election were cast before Election Day on Nov. 3.
So, how did the numbers stack up locally? Not only were more ballots cast in each village than in 2016, the voter turnout in each village was also higher in 2020.
The highest local voter turnout came from the village of Riverside, where 80.3 percent of registered voters cast ballots. For the 2016 election, voter turnout in Riverside was 77 percent. In terms of sheer numbers, Riverside accounted for 5,677 total ballots – 568 more ballots than in 2016.
In Brookfield, this year’s voter turnout was 76.3 percent compared to 75 percent in 2016. Residents of the village cast 10,544 ballots, topping the 2016 total by 987 ballots.
As in 2016, voter turnout in North Riverside was the lowest of the three villages in 2020. Even so, the village’s 74.4 percent voter turnout this year was better than the 72 percent turnout in 2016 and greater than turnout countywide.
More impressive was the percentage increase in the number of ballots cast in North Riverside this year compared to either Brookfield or Riverside.
The smallest of the three villages, North Riverside voters cast 3,787 ballots this year — 506 more than in 2016, or a 15.4 percent increase from four years ago. The percentage increase in ballots cast in Riverside and Brookfield was 11.5 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively.