We have reached the end of the election cycle, for now, with the recent conclusion of the 2021 Consolidated General Election in Champaign County.
After reviewing the results, we’ve narrowed it down to three main takeaways. Please note: This is by no means a comprehensive report on all results. A few other notable things that aren’t discussed in this article, but still worthy of your attention: Urbana School Board, Parkland College Board of Trustees, and a litany of elected positions in a variety of smaller communities surrounding C-U.
CHANGES ARE COMING FOR CITY COUNCILS
There are changes ahead on both city councils. Here’s what happened (again, not exhaustive, see the full slate here for more results):
Davion Williams defeated incumbent Clarissa Fourman in Champaign’s District 1, a seat Fourman has held since 2015.
Danny Iniguez will be seated as Champaign’s District 3 councilperson, replacing the outgoing Angie Brix.
Michael Foellmer defeated incumbent Greg Stock in Champaign’s District 4, a seat Stock has held since 2016.
Chris Evans will be seated in Urbana’s 2nd Ward, defeating Colin Dodson.
Jaya Kolisetty will be seated in Urbana’s 4th Ward, defeating Mike Kobel.
Grace Wilken defeated William Colbrook in Urbana’s 6th Ward, a seat he held for just over a year.
All told, three of the nine Champaign City Council seats and five of seven on Urbana’s City Council will have new representation. While Urbana’s seats are unsurprisingly all Democrats (Champaign’s council is nonpartisan on paper), there will certainly be a learning curve for the new members on the council. These incoming Urbana alderpeople are a progressive bunch, and we are curious as to how they will manage challenges ahead, like resuming life in Urbana post-COVID-19 mitigations.
As far as Champaign’s City Council goes, quite frankly, we wish there was more change happening across the board, not just with members, but also with priorities in Champaign. We’ve learned that there’s a lot of insider action when it comes to who gets their way and who doesn’t, with the case of Justin Michael Hendrix proving that if you have the mayor on your side, it is probably going to benefit you at the ballot box. It has been clear since the beginning that Danny Iniguez was supported by Mayor Feinen for the District 3 race, and that support paid off, as he will replace Angie Brix. Despite the change in a third of the seats, newcomers Williams, Foellmer, and Iniguez will have to navigate a council that has a lot of long-serving members: Beck (2017), Bruno (1997), Feinen (2006), Gladney (2015), Kyles (2009), and Pianfetti (2017).
SADLY, WE MUST TALK ABOUT RODNEY DAVIS AGAIN
It’s depressing that you can participate in the January 6th insurrection and get re-elected like Tyler Evans just did in Thomasboro. That sets the expectation and bar very low in our region, especially if you are a progressive running in a sea of red. What’s also sad is how desperate IL-13 Rep. Rodney Davis is to fire shots at those leading elections now that Republicans aren’t running the show.
During the week of the election, Rep. Davis took a direct jab at Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons for technical issues with the clerk’s website, causing a temporary delay in uploading results on election night. Calling the first Black Champaign County Clerk incompetent is steeped in racist rhetoric. Ammons certainly will have to improve the system moving forward, but Davis is conveniently choosing to forget that even with the unofficial results page failing to load, there were over 2,000 mail-in ballots that hadn’t been counted yet, and weren’t going to be counted on election night. We are accustomed to the expectation of knowing the results (or how things are looking) immediately, but as we learned from the November 2020 election, it takes time to count ballots. Republicans like Davis cry foul when more comprehensive and efficient modes of voting and tabulating votes are introduced, then go on to complain when complete results aren’t available at the close of the polls. They cannot have it both ways — all ballots must be counted, and that takes time.
Yet Rep. Davis will continue his diatribe about how Ammons is “incompetent” when truly, and as Rep. Carol Ammons perfectly points out, Davis is doing everything he can to make sure people have a harder time voting while simultaneously criticizing someone for counting votes. That seems like the opposite of what elected officials should be doing these days. Ammons is doing his job to count every single ballot regardless of the status of the public-facing results system. Rep. Davis is going to do everything he can to make sure people look away from what Ammons is doing. This is a textbook case of whataboutism.
Let’s not forget he could be running for Governor soon, and his painting Democrats in leadership positions as incompetent is not fooling anyone.
WHAT’S UP WITH LOW(ISH) VOTER TURNOUT?
While primary and consolidated election voter turnout is typically much lower than general elections, we hope that city and county leadership in Champaign County can prioritize the promotion of voting in our area with a focus on increasing voter turnout. Low voter turnout in municipal elections isn’t a problem that’s isolated to our community. A lot of that has to do with when voting dates are, but our community should do more to promote voting each and every time the ballot boxes are opened. We realize it isn’t their job to promote voting, but even a cursory glance at Champaign and Urbana’s Twitter accounts around April 6th showcases basically zero engagement when it comes to voting. And those are just two of many places that could improve on the outreach front.
We don’t necessarily have the answers, but given that access to information has only increased over the past decade, and the way people can vote has expanded, it is hard to ignore the decreasing numbers, especially in the primary elections. We’ve focused on the city council elections specifically, as some of the seats in Urbana are decided by just a handful of votes. It illustrates that every single vote does count.
Though there was a lot on the line this time around, voter turnout (16,394) was down from 2019’s consolidated election turnout (17,266), but not nearly as low as it was in 2013 (14,522). However, when there are Mayoral elections on the ballot, turnout is up typically (see 2015 and 2011). While we’re glad to see things are steady, it has led us to think about how, as a community, we can improve and encourage voting more than we already do. With roughly 130,000 registered voters in Champaign County, we’re usually only getting about 10-15% of those folks to the polls in consolidated general elections, which needs improvement.
The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, and Patrick Singer.