Close Contests Nothing New In Peoria, But Mayoral Nail-biter Is Unprecedented

Apr 7, 2021

It will take at least another two weeks to determine the winner of Tuesday’s election to decide who will be Peoria’s first new mayor in 16 years.

With just 73 votes – out of just over 16,000 ballots tabulated – separating Jim Montelongo and Rita Ali in the unofficial results from Election Night, the candidates are now in somewhat of a holding pattern.  

Peoria County Election Commission Executive Director Tom Bride said elections this tight are not necessarily uncommon, but generally not for the city’s top office.

“I haven’t dealt with one,” he said. “I mean, we’ve had (close) races. We had a city council race, we had an at-large primary, we just had the township supervisor’s race. But I don’t remember a mayor’s race.”

Bride said as many as 675 vote-by-mail ballots remain outstanding, with some arriving late Tuesday afternoon and others still trickling in.

“Anything that is eligible, we will process and count tomorrow starting at 1 p.m.,” Bride said Wednesday. “Then we’ll continue that process Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and the last count of any eligible ballots will be (April) 20.”

Ballots postmarked by April 6 are valid and will be added to the totals, although Bride said he does not expect all 625 outstanding ballots will be returned.

Bride said the commission will make the results official on April 21. If the result is still close, he said the trailing candidate would still have options.

“They can ask for a discovery recount, or they could go straight to court. But usually you start with the discovery recount,” he said. “When we finalize, when the official results are canvassed, they have five days from then to ask for a discovery recount.”

Bride said voter turnout in the city of Peoria came in at 21.7%, significantly higher than the 17.2% for Peoria County as a whole. But elsewhere in the Tri-County region, participation was not nearly as strong.

Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman said overall voter turnout was lower than usual for a local municipal election, checking in at 9.9%.

“Historically, we’re between 13-18% in Tazewell County for a consolidated off-year election like this,” Ackerman said. “So the 9.9% is a disappointment to me. I wish we would’ve been in that historic average.”

Ackerman said areas with competitive, contested elections such as Washington, Delavan, and Groveland did fare better. Washington totaled 3,031 ballots cast in the mayor’s race -- almost 27% of registered voters -- as incumbent Gary Manier won a sixth term, edging Ward 1 Alderman Lili Stevens by 83 votes.

“We did have pockets where we had quite a few ballots coming in,” said Ackerman. “But not enough to pull up the average county-wide.”

Ackerman said final vote tallying for Washington races was delayed by about an hour due to a software glitch. He said his office will fix the issue before the next election.

WCBU's Tim Shelley contributed to this report.


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