NEW 7 p.m. Both Logan County Clerk Sally Litterly and DeWitt County Clerk Jayne Usher have the same response when questioned about preparations for today's election. "I'll be so glad when it's over," each said. |"> Non-election TV listings |"> Election night in the newsroom

Largely because of the presidential race, both are expecting heavy turnouts. A few county board races and nonbinding referendum questions also are on the ballot today in each county. |"> Previous entries: Should GOP pray for rain? |"> Weird area polling places |"> Students' presidential plans |"> McCain backers in Ill. |"> Stock market sees rally

In the past, a presidential Election Day meant local election officials would work into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. In today's computerized world, though, that happens less frequently.

"It's so much easier than it used to be, and many times we would be here until 1 or so in the morning," Litterly said. "Then, after a 15 or 16-hour day, you would have to come back early the next morning and put in another long one. You still have other duties and responsibilities for this office, and they still have to be done whether it's Election Day or not."

Shortly after polls close at 7 p.m., the judges begin arriving at their respective county courthouses. Voters standing in line at 7 p.m. are allowed to cast their ballots, and once the last ballot is cast the election judges gather the equipment, place it in their vehicles and convoy to the courthouse. Then, typically, they will gather in a separate room and are released once the ballots have been counted and are ready to be posted.

"We used to have big crowds outside in our hall waiting for the numbers to be posted on a chalkboard," Usher said. "We still do that, but the crowds are much smaller now because we post them on the Internet."

Smaller crowds work in favor of county clerk staffs; fewer people means fewer questions that need to be answered.

"It's always hectic and everyone is running around trying to get things done," Usher said. "You are fixing this and people are telling you things that you don't have time for and you just go from one thing to the other. It's still hectic and fast-paced because the results are available so much quicker now, and in fact, it's almost difficult to keep up."

In DeWitt County, there are 23 precincts, while Logan County has 44.

- Posted by Kevin Barlow,

Election night in newsroom is about action, food

6:30 p.m. BLOOMINGTON - The Pantagraph's election coverage doesn't just happen. It is planned, but - truthfully - something always changes before we're done. That messes up our to-do/have-done lists, but we have backup lists to take care of that. Newspaper editors love lists.

Election night gets stressful (one year, a shoeless editor sang opera to break the tension; it made it worse). People are awake far beyond their usual bedtimes to finish stories or photographs or pages already overdue. Production workers, pressmen, mailroom workers and delivery drivers are waiting for us to get done so THEY can get done so the carriers can get done so you can open your front door at dawn's early light to find an up-to-date, well-written and well-edited paper.

It works as long as we have the right kind of pretzels, the right kind of licorice, enough pizza, both kinds of olives, carrot sticks and a giant bag of M&Ms - and enough leftovers for the next day.

And that, dear readers, means another list.

Our online news editor, Ryan Denham, thought you might like a peek at parts of our plan. A few highlights:

• Are the charts ready, are they proofread and do we have extra space reserved?

• Do we have main and secondary phone numbers and Web site addresses for all election authorities, each reporter's cell number, the direct office number for all the county clerks, and all the photographers' numbers?

• What are our deadlines? Can we make them later?

• Who's updating our online coverage and are they feeding results to other Lee papers?

• What time is the food showing up, and do we have enough forks?

• Do we have addresses and contact numbers for watch parties?

• How's the weather?

• Do we have previous turnout numbers and where are they?

• Does each reporter have two copies of each county's ballot (one for early deadline, one for final deadline), plus contact numbers?

- Posted by Julie Gerke,

Stock market sees biggest Election Day rally

5:05 p.m. BLOOMINGTON - The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 305.45 points Tuesday, or 3.28 percent, with many financial experts pointing to more optimism on Wall Street, in part because the election was finally at hand.

It was the biggest Election Day rally for the Dow, topping the 1.2 percent gain seen in 1984 when Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale.

(Prior to 1984, the market was closed on Election Day, although the Dow did post a nearly 2 percent gain on the Wednesday after Reagan was elected to replaced Jimmy Carter in 1980.)

Since then, the Dow has gained or lost less than half a percent on most presidential Election Days prior to today, the exception being a 0.7 percent increase (39.5 points) in 1996, when Bill Clinton trounced Bob Dole to win four more years in the White House.

Since 1980, George W. Bush is the only president to see a loss in the overall value of the Dow in the four years from his election (or re-election) to the following election.

The Dow closed at 10,952.18 on Election Day 2000, as the world waited to see if Bush or Al Gore would be president. In 2004, the Dow was at 10,035.73 at the close on Election Day, and the market closed at 9,625.28 today.

Reagan presided over an increase of 291 points from his election in 1980 to his re-election in 1984 and saw the DJIA rise another 883 points between then and the election of George H.W. Bush in 1988.

The Dow gained 1,125 in the elder Bush's only term, but soared 7,700 points during Bill Clinton's 8 years between elections, closing at 3,252 on Election Day 1992 and 10,952.18 as the nation chose his successor.

SOURCES: Associated Press and Yahoo! Finance historical figures

- Posted by Michael Freimann,

Paris may be only hope to escape election on TV

4 p.m. BLOOMINGTON - It will be pretty hard to escape news coverage of the election tonight on television, with the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) taking all of primetime to cover the outcome of McCain vs. Obama, and CNN (9 hours of coverage) and Fox News (11 hours) offering their usual talking heads and then some. |">Voting problems? Contact us |"> Photo gallery

In fact, the only "network" offering new programming tonight is the youth-oriented CW, which will have fresh episodes of "90210" and "Privileged" to offer as an alternative to talk of the Electoral College and the magic map.

Those of you tuning into ABC to see the "Dancing With the Stars" elimination show will be disappointed, unless Charlie Gibson does a tango with Diane Sawyer while they wait for the returns to come in, with George Stephanopoulos doing the judging.

"DWTS" will return on Wednesday at 7 p.m., where America will have its say for the second straight day, voting off one of the six remaining couples.

If you're not a supporter of Obama or McCain, you can flip to MTV to watch erstwhile "candidate" Paris Hilton as she continues her search for a new gal pal on "Paris Hilton's My New BFF."

You can take a look a">music video touting Hilton's campaign on YouTube.

For the kids, Disney Channel is getting in on the election buzz, with a showing of the 1998 TV movie starring Elisabeth Harnois as Hallie Richmond, the daughter to Dabney Coleman's President Richmond. Hallie tries to ditch her Secret Service bodyguards to go out on a date with a kid from school. (On second thought, it might be better to pop some corn and have the kids watch the news coverage of what is already an historic election.)

Lastly, AMC offers viewers a chance to watch the epic struggle of an underdog white guy who takes on long odds in his shot to upset the favorite - who happens to be black - in a grueling battle.

The cable network isn't jumping on the election news bandwagon, however. It's showing "Rocky" at 4:30 p.m., with Sylvester Stallone as the titular underdog and Carl Weathers as champion Apollo Creed.

In this case, Rocky loses, but for those looking for a different outcome, just wait around until the 7 p.m. showing of "Rocky II" where the underdog gets a second chance and takes the title.

For more options on TV tonight, check out our interactive TV listings">here.

What a widget

You may have noticed a little election returns box on our home page. It's our new widget showing off the results from the presidential and three are congressional races.

- Posted by Michael Freimann,

Candidate keeps up campaign on last day

3 p.m. NORMAL - So how does a local congressional candidate spend Election Day, the final step in a year and a half of endless campaigning, calls to campaign contributors, and conversations with complete strangers? More campaigning, obviously.

Green Party candidate Jason Wallace is running against state Sen. Debbie Halvorson, D-Crete, and Republican businessman Marty Ozinga to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller in the 11th Congressional District. The district stretches from the Chicago suburbs to parts of Bloomington-Normal.

Wallace was spending most of Tuesday on the phone, working with campaign volunteers - some of them students at Illinois State University who are getting course credit - on get-out-the-vote calls as the clock ticked toward 7 p.m., when polls close.

Earlier Tuesday, Wallace voted at his polling place, Grace Church, 1311 W. Hovey Ave., Normal. As a recent Illinois State University graduate in his first race for major elected office, he said it was "very exciting."

"Because I've never run for a major office before, I always remember seeing those names on the ballot … but this time, I thought 'That's me. I'm voting for myself,'" Wallace said late Tuesday morning.

Wallace plans to stop by an election night event at ISU at 7:30 p.m., then go to his own campaign's party at the bar area of Circle Lanes, 1225 Holiday Lane, Bloomington, with family and friends and a big-screen TV full of election results.

Wallace said he's spent about $6,000 on the campaign, under a self-imposed $10,000 cap. He faces an uphill battle against two better-funded, major-party campaigns, and he said he's a "little nervous" but that "it will be nice once polls close to just sit back and see how the voters have decided."

"I'm glad I did it," he said.

- Posted by Ryan Denham,

Turnout strong as judges await afternoon rush

2:20 p.m. Turnout was strong in many parts of Central Illinois early Tuesday, with voters lined up outside polling places before 6 a.m. and steady streams of people casting ballots throughout the day, according to election officials.

"It's nice to see everyone in a good mood," said Janet Beach Davis, an election judge at Normal precincts 20 and 24, at Heartland Community Church, 1811 N. Linden St. "Nobody's grumpy."

Beach Davis' polling place had about 400 voters cast ballots by around 8:30 a.m., including 150 in the first hour, she said. Almost 70 people were standing at the door when election officials opened the door, she said.

"That's amazing for us," she said.

Lines and moderate waits were reported at several Twin City locations during the pre-work rush Tuesday morning.

In Logan County, Clerk Sally J. Litterly said that while turnout estimates were not yet available, the number of phone calls to her office on how to find the right polling place indicated a large amount of voters were headed to the polls for the first time in awhile.

"We are busy, but not overwhelmed," she said, adding that she didn't see any especially long lines when she toured polling places Tuesday morning.

Woodford County Clerk Chief Deputy Vicki Wilder said some of the county's smaller precincts have asked for additional spindles to hold voter records, a sign that some polling places are seeing more voters than expected. Each spindle holds a few hundred voters, Wilder said.

Livingston County Chief Deputy of Elections Pat Oltman said that the absentee and early voting numbers were at 1,530, which is the highest number Oltman has seen in her 20 years on the job. Absentee and early voting numbers are typically between 800 and 900 for a presidential election, Oltman said.

No major voting problems were reported in Livingston County during the first half of the day, county clerk staff reported.

McLean County

Workers in McLean County Clerk Peggy Ann Milton's office rotated their attention between six people waiting for service at the counter and phone lines that rang constantly Tuesday afternoon.

Rural McLean County voter Alan Holderly left the clerk's office frustrated with the response he received for an unexplained change in his home address from Dawson Township to LeRoy on voter registration records. His wife's address was correct on poll records.

"I think it's pathetic. I have lived in the same house outside Ellsworth for 14 years. How can they change an address without a signature or driver's license or anything else? They even sent me a new voter registration card in May," Holderly said after he left the county office.

Holderly was able to vote in Ellsworth on Tuesday morning because he carries the registration card with him. The trip to the Government Center was aimed at correcting the problem for future balloting, he said.

Illinois State University graduate student Falyon Ligon brought a piece of mail to Milton's office to verify her new address. Ligon was among thousands of early voters who cast their ballot last week. She was told by an election worker Monday that a trip to the county office was necessary in order for her vote to count.

"I voted when I was 18, the first time I was able to. This election is one that will go down in history and even though it's just little ole me, I want my vote to count," the student said.

Election workers assured Ligon on Tuesday that her vote will be counted.

The voter turnout across the county has been heavy so far, according to a Milton staffer. Calls coming into the office range from questions that could be answered quickly to others that required research.

- Posted by Edith Brady-Lunny and Ryan Denham,,

Local GOP, Democratic groups make last push

1:45 p.m. McLean County Republican and Democratic organizations made their final push to reach voters Tuesday, going door-to-door, taking calls from confused voters and replacing missing political yard signs.

At McLean County GOP headquarters, 1704 Eastland Square, Bloomington, voters on Tuesday were calling or coming in with questions about finding their correct polling places and to request replacement McCain signs that had been stolen, said county chairman John Parrott Jr.

The group has also been in touch with its 16 poll-watchers who are keeping an eye on county polls in case problems arise, Parrott said. No serious problems had been reported by around noon, Parrott said.

County Republicans are hosting their election night party at the usual spot, Jim's Steakhouse, 2307 E. Washington St., Bloomington. In the past, the event has drawn between 100 and 150 people.

Meanwhile, Mike Matejka with the McLean County Democrats on Tuesday was supervising get-out-the-vote efforts for his 10 precincts from the Democrats' headquarters, 410 N. Main St. He said local Democrats had about 100 people out and about Tuesday for one final push.

The local Democrats are hosting their election night party at the UAW 2488 Hall on Illinois 9 at 7 p.m., he said.

County Democratic chairman John Penn was in Chicago on Tuesday with his wife, Mary, and brother, David, to attend Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's election night rally at Grant Park.

The Obama campaign called John Penn and offered VIP tickets for the rally, and the trio took the train up to Chicago earlier Tuesday, David Penn said.

David Penn said around 12:45 p.m. that huge crowds were already gathered at the entrance to the ticketed area, even though the event opens at 8:30 p.m. Penn, who visited Obama's campaign headquarters later Tuesday, is spending the night at a Hilton across the street from the park.

"Have you ever seen a column of ants milling around their one entrance to their ant hole? That's what it's like," David Penn said. "An absolutely incredible amount of people."

David Penn said Obama may stop by a pre-rally reception at their Hilton, adding one of his favorite memories is when Obama acknowledged his brother at a union event in San Francisco.

"Im so proud of my brother's personal relationship with the man who may be the next president of the United States," David Penn said.

- Posted by Ryan Denham,

Playing QB for McCain on Obama's home turf

12:40 p.m. See if this sounds like a tough job to you: Help run your favorite Republican presidential candidate's campaign in the traditionally Democratic home state of that candidate's Democratic opponent.

But the good news for state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, a co-chair for Sen. John McCain's campaign in Illinois, is that no one expects McCain to actually win Illinois.

So with the "very unique set of circumstances" - among them, Sen. Barack Obama's popularity on his blue home turf - the goals are simple: give people a way to voice their vote, and keep the results "respectable" for McCain, Brady says." border= "0" />
Dan Brady

"Illinois is Illinois in this particular election," he says. "I think Sen. McCain is going to do well here in Central Illinois and southern Illinois. But north of (Interstate) 80, we don't anticipate that much."

Brady has helped McLean County become the distribution center for McCain yard signs and other materials for all of Central Illinois. He's also helped coordinate visits to the area by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a one-time McCain vice presidential prospect.

But in recent months Brady has helped campaigned in more competitive states - Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin. For Brady, a well-known politician in McLean County, being a "loyal foot soldier" means walking neighborhoods where he's maybe not so easily recognizable.

"In those areas, where you're out of your element … nobody knows you but for the McCain-Palin T-Shirts you're wearing," said Brady, a state representative since 2001. (He's running unopposed this election and is spending time campaigning for other Illinois House Republicans.)

Brady last ran into McCain at a September fundraiser in Chicago. He says a lot has changed in McCain's campaign, which was had its "ups and downs." He remembers back in November 2007, "when basically it was just John McCain himself, carrying his own bags."

That was before he won the Republican nomination.

"Now, you don't have that accessibility. There's a lot more handlers," Brady says. "Some of that's good, and some of that's bad."

Brady plans to spend tonight at an event for McCain's Illinois campaign team at English Bar & Restaurant in downtown Chicago. And Brady's well aware that a certain other presidential candidate also is hosting some sort of event in downtown Chicago tonight.

"It's a ways away from Grant Park, which is probably a good thing," he said.

- Posted by Ryan Denham,

Local students make their presidential plans

11:25 a.m. LEXINGTON - If during the 2048 presidential campaign voters come across a candidate who has plans to rid the world of evil, darkness, the Chicago Cubs and high insurance premiums, it's a safe bet that politician attended Lexington Elementary School.

Third-graders at the school have been studying up on the 2008 election, and teacher Marisa Owens recently had them draw up a" target="_blank">one-paragraph plan for what they'd do if they were elected president.

The consensus: America needs a political party with a platform that supports the environment, wants to avoid World War III, wants less school days per week, will allow the president to serve in the military, and lets Raelyn Payne's birthday be rescheduled to once a week (every Wednesday) for the rest of time.

There's some young, anti-tax, Grover Norquist-types in the crowd: "On Thursdays and Tuesdays there will not be any school; that should save our government some money," writes Nick Beard.

There may also be some future Al Gores in Owens' class: "Pollution is bad for everyone, so if you are caught polluting then you will go to jail!" writes Corrin Emberton, who also would pursue an aggressive homeownership initiative in her first term.

All in all, the kids' ideas sound pretty good. They haven't been run through the filter of partisanship and divisive politics, and no one turned to negative attacks to support their platform.

And the good news: 2048 is right around the corner." target="_blank">Read the full responses from Owens' third-grade class here.

- Posted by Ryan Denham,

Wearing that McCain T-shirt to vote? Think again

10:25 a.m. BLOOMINGTON - You might want to think twice before you wear that Obama T-shirt or McCain baseball cap when you go to vote today. Wearing clothing or buttons that have a candidate's name or a particular political party displayed is a no-no at polling places, local election officials say.

In McLean County, if you show up to your polling place in a T-shirt displaying your favorite presidential candidate, for example, you'll be asked to leave and come back with the shirt turned inside out, said McLean County Clerk Peggy Ann Milton.

"If anyone is wearing these types of things they will be considered electioneering and the law forbids this within 100 feet of the polling place," said Char Stanford, executive director of the Bloomington Election Commission.

And besides making sure you don't literally "voice" your vote while at your polling place, election officials are also keeping an eye on where political signs are placed.

"We have had problems with political signs being put up, taken down and put up again, over and over," said Stanford. Again, the 100-feet rule is in effect for polling places, and at church locations the entire property is electioneering-free, she said.

There should be orange cones marking that 100-foot distance in Bloomington, Stanford said.

For homeowners, the rules for displaying signs in your front yard are about the same for Normal and Bloomington. They must be placed in the actual yard, not the right-of-way between the sidewalk and the street. And any sign that creates a visual safety hazard for motorists or pedestrians will catch the attention of city staff.

In Bloomington, the rule is one sign per candidate per lawn. Normal is a little more hands-off with such rules, and the town likely won't take action unless something is a safety hazard or is illegally placed, says Greg Troemel, director of Normal's Building Inspection Division.

In Bloomington, political signs must be taken down by Saturday. If signs are still up, the city will call the political party the sign is affiliated with and ask for compliance, said Mike Alwes, with the city's building safety division.

Normal gives residents a few weeks to take down their political signs. If they don't comply, the town will do it for them.

And parents looking to bring their children to the polls to help educate them about the democratic process are welcome to do so - with a few conditions.

Children under the age of 18 can join their parent or guardian in a voting booth as long as the family first asks the election officials at their polling place, according to the Illinois Election Code. Those election officials can give permission as long as they don't think the children will disrupt or interfere with the process, the law states.

"To my knowledge, children have never been turned away from enjoying the experience with their family," Milton said.

Voters are urged to contact their election authority if they encounter problems at the polls and the election judges aren't able to help.

In Bloomington, voters can call (309) 888-5136 or e-mail if they have problems. If a voter feels they need to go further, they can call the state Board of Elections at (217) 782-5959.

Elsewhere in McLean County, voters can contact one of several numbers at Milton's office. They are (309) 888-5186, 888-5191, or 888-5188.

- Posted by Ryan Denham,

Area polling sites feature garages, Porta-Potties

9:15 a.m. SAN JOSE - People across Central Illinois will flock to local government buildings and churches today to vote. In Logan County, some voters will go to their assigned polling place: Blair Hoerbert's garage.

Amid the usual suspects for polling places are curious locations like Hoerbert's attached garage south of San Jose, which is heated and apparently quite nice for the less than 400 registered voters in Logan County's Prairie Creek precinct, said County Clerk Sally Litterly.

The rules for what a site must have to be eligible as a polling place are minimal, county clerks say. Access for disabled voters is a must, and some clerks want to make sure there's enough parking - which makes churches quite attractive.

Not even permanent bathrooms are necessary.

In Woodford County, election officials have to order portable bathrooms for Election Day at the Greene Township precinct, which votes at a town hall, 2254 County Road 1350 North, Roanoke, said County Clerk Debbie Harms.

"Those poor judges," she said of poll workers in the precinct, which has 292 registered voters.

Also in Woodford County, the 387 registered voters in El Paso 2 precinct cast ballots inside Central Hydraulics' business offices on the south edge of Kappa, Harms said. The El Paso-based company is a full-service hydraulic pump and hydrostatic transmission business, according to its Web site.

Some area counties, such as Logan and DeWitt, are moving away from using schools as polling places because of concerns about encouraging convicted sex offenders who may still have the right to vote inside a school.

Find your polling place

To find polling places in your county, please check with the following election authorities, or use Google's new polling place mapping feature by">going here and clicking on "customized voting info":

• Tazewell County, (309) 477-2264" target= "_blank">Logan County

• DeWitt County, (217) 935-2119

• Ford County, (217) 379-2721" target= "_blank">LaSalle County

- Posted by Ryan Denham,

Lines, waiting greet Central Illinois voters

NEW 9:45 a.m. NORMAL - Voters were met with lines, waiting, beautiful weather and free sweets Tuesday as polls opened across Central Illinois. Election judges at several precincts said voting appeared brisk from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.

"It's nice to see everyone in a good mood," said Janet Beach Davis, an election judge at Normal precincts 20 and 24, at Heartland Community Church, 1811 N. Linden St. "Nobody's grumpy."

Beach Davis' polling place had about 400 voters cast ballots by around 8:30 a.m., including 150 in the first hour, she said. Almost 70 people were standing at the door when election officials opened the door, she said.

"That's amazing for us," she said.

At Normal precinct 25 at the Ironwood golf course clubhouse, more than 310 voters had cast ballots by 8:45 a.m., election judges said. The maximum wait there had been around half an hour earlier Tuesday morning, judges said.

The wait at Normal precinct 15, which votes at Normal Township Hall on Mulberry Street along with precinct 7, was reportedly about 40 minutes around 7 a.m. Someone there was even passing out sweet rolls to voters - perhaps trying to one-up Krispy Kreme's free doughnut offer today.

In Bloomington, a line snaked around the basement at First Christian Church, 401 W. Jefferson St., where Bloomington precincts 6 and 9 vote, around 6:15 a.m.

In LeRoy, almost 600 voters had reportedly cast ballots at the three precincts at the Water Tower Place polling place, 212 E. Pine St., election judges said, estimating much higher turnout than in recent years.

- Posted by Ryan Denham,

Want free coffee or a free doughnut? Better hurry

7:50 a.m. BLOOMINGTON - Americans will pick a new leader for the country on Tuesday, and will be able to pick up some free coffee, ice cream and other goodies too. Starbucks Corp. is offering a free cup of brewed coffee to anyone who asks on Tuesday, while Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. is giving away star-shaped doughnuts.

Starbucks had originally planned to give away the "tall" brewed coffees to anyone who reported that they voted, saying in an ad: "If you care enough to vote, we care enough to give you a free cup of coffee."

The company broadened its offer to all customers to ensure it was in compliance with election law, spokeswoman Tara Darrow said Monday evening.

Krispy Kreme is giving star-shaped doughnuts with red, white and blue sprinkles to anyone who mentions the promotion, said spokeswoman Ayana Hernandez, but they won't be required to show an "I voted" sticker.

The company's 85 company-owned stores will be participating, along with an unknown number of its 145 franchisees, she said. The Krispy Kreme in Bloomington is participating in the free-doughnut giveaway, but a manager said around 7:35 a.m. that the location was "going through them fast."

Krispy Kreme estimates it'll give away about 200,000 of the doughnuts.

- By The Associated Press and Pantagraph staff, Posted by Ryan Denham,

Nice forecast, but should GOP 'pray for rain'?

7 a.m. BLOOMINGTON - With highs in the low 70s and clear skies forecast for Central Illinois today, voters shouldn't have any weather-related problems on their way to their polling places. Besides some patchy dense fog in parts of Livingston County before 9 a.m., weather was expected to be almost perfect throughout the day, with the lows in the low 50s tonight.

The effect that weather has on voter turnout is widely debated among political scientists, as well as the pundits who need something to talk about on CNN and talk radio before polls close.

The assumption is logical enough: Bad weather may be the deciding factor for some people who choose not to vote.

But the real question is whether it's enough of a factor to significantly affect the outcome of an election?

In the 2007 study," target= "_blank">"The Republicans Should Pray for Rain: Weather, Turnout, and Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections," researchers put the age-old weather assumption to the test - and determine there is a significant electoral effect.

The wide-ranging study of individual U.S. counties found that bad weather (rain and snow) significantly decreases the level of voter turnout within a county, particularly among so-called "peripheral voters." Those voters are defined as significantly less likely to vote but who can be responsive to mobilization efforts, such as public transportation and get-out-the-vote campaigns.

"Bad weather may be the last straw for peripheral voters, and according to the conventional wisdom, these voters may be disproportionately inclined to support the Democratic presidential candidate."

But why does this matter?

Because the study's results of its "zero precipitation" scenarios reveal only two cases in which a perfectly dry Election Day would have changed an Electoral College outcome. Most recently, that was in Florida in 2000, where some counties were affected by wet weather in what turned out to be an unbearably close election - won by the Republican.

Char Stanford, executive director of the Bloomington Election Commission, says bad weather would have a stronger affect on municipal elections than on a presidential election here in Central Illinois.

"It would need to be extremely bad before it would affect this November election," she said, adding that the elderly, disabled and those with small children would be most impacted of all voters.

In addition to turnout, nasty weather can sometimes play havoc on election workers. That happened during February's presidential primary, when a McLean County election" target="_blank">judge asked for a police escort to help get her Saybrook precinct's ballots back to headquarters after parts of Illinois 9 flooded.

But even though today's weather is not a problem, the possibility of bad weather is partly "why we strongly suggest early voting to avoid any Election Day weather-related problems."

- Posted by Ryan Denham,

After long campaign, polls are finally open

UPDATED 7:15 a.m. There was Iowa. There was Huckabee. There were the New Hampshire surprises. There was the endless Obama-Clinton bout. There was Rev. Wright. There was Palin. There was Bill Ayers, Troopergate and plumbers named Joe. And there were a few debates. But it's finally Election Day, and polls are now open.

Check back here at The Pantagraph's Election Day Blog throughout the day for updates on how Central Illinoisans are voicing their vote. Had an interesting experience at your polling place?" target= "_blank">Contact us. Run into some problems while trying to vote? Contact your election authority, but then" target= "_blank">contact us.

Central Illinois election officials are" target="_blank">predicting higher turnout compared to 2004, and early voting has been heavy throughout the area. In McLean County, where 73 percent of registered voters cast ballots in 2004, officials are expecting between 80 and 85 percent. It's the same story in other counties.

At Precinct 3 (Jacob's Well) in the heart of Normal, voting was steady but not backed up, with almost 70 people voting by 7 a.m. A precinct worker said a few early voters had made their way to a wrong polling place but were quickly corrected. At First Christian Church, 401 W. Jefferson St., where Bloomington precincts 6 and 9 vote, there was a good size line right at 6:15 a.m. |">Voting problems? Tell your election official, then contact us

Highlighting area election ballots this year - besides those guys running for president - are some high-profile local races:

• The Democratic state Senate majority leader is running against a longtime Republican concrete company owner and a recent Illinois State University graduate to replace retiring Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Morris, in the 11th Congressional District.

• A 27-year-old Republican state lawmaker from Peoria is trying to fight off a feisty Democratic challenger (a longtime farm broadcaster) and an active Green Party candidate in hopes of keeping retiring Rep. Ray LaHood's 18th Congressional District from leaving the GOP column.

• Two political newcomers - one Democrat and one Republican - are" target="_blank">vying to replace longtime McLean County Circuit Clerk Sandra Parker, who is not seeking re-election.

• Bloomington voters will decide an" target="_blank">advisory referendum asking whether city employees should make a minimum of $9.81 an hour, the living wage.

Also worth watching is whether a recent" target="_blank">dispute over voter records between the McLean County clerk's office and the Bloomington Election Commission results in any problems, as some officials had feared - even after the two separate authorities reached an agreement on how to fix things.

Also, we'll keep an eye on turnout at ISU's Bone Student Center, where" target="_blank">on-campus student voters cast ballots in two Normal precincts. In the 2004 presidential election, some students stood in line for hours to vote, and turnout was higher than 70 percent.

So, whether it's the marquee presidential matchup or the high-profile local issues that have your attention, we'll keep you posted.

- Posted by Ryan Denham,

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