Chicago-area voters line up at polls after early voters set record – Chicago Tribune
Voters went to the polls early Tuesday to choose the next president of the United States as well as select state and local leaders — lining up at community centers, schools and even bars to cast their votes.
In addition to choosing between presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, they face choices for Illinois’ junior U.S. Senate seat as well as contests that will determine control over the state legislature.
The election, perhaps the most bitter and divisive in history, could end with the country electing its first female president.
Dozens of voters, the majority of them African-American, poured into O’Keeffe Elementary School in the South Shore neighborhood during the first hour polls were open.
Marilyn Hall, 60, did not say which candidate she voted for but acknowledged the potential for a momentous occasion.
“It’s something to think about a woman president. Wow,” she said, smiling. “I wish her all the luck.”
But no matter who prevailed, Hall said she would rely on her Christian faith to help guide the next leader.
“Somebody will become president today whether we like it or not,” Hall said. “I just hope they do a good job for all of us, not just some of us.”
Voting got off to a somewhat difficult start at O’Keeffe as election officials struggled to direct the stream of voters for four different precincts on the same site. Voters piled into one line that snaked through the school hallway and toward the main entrance without being told that there were different stations inside the gym designed to assist voters in specific precincts.
“They have no idea what’s going on,” one man said to a fellow voter. “Everyone here at this table is new, and they don’t know what they’re doing.”
With the lack of directives, those who finished casting their ballots took it upon themselves to help other frustrated voters and prevent them from making the same mistakes.
By around 7 a.m., however, operations had smoothed out and lines moved along more quickly.
At Lombard Village Hall, about 100 people waited in line to vote at 8 a.m.
An election judge apologized to the people waiting.
“It’s sort of good, though. We have more people waiting than we sometimes have voting for an entire day,” he told the crowd.
The statewide elections will serve as a referendum on voters’ allegiances to either GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner or Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. Millions of dollars have been spent on contests that will decide whether Democrats can keep their state House and Senate supermajorities or whether Rauner and the Republicans will gain more influence in the legislature.
The Democrats’ current majorities in Springfield — 71-47 in the House and 39-20 in the Senate — have not been enough to overrule Rauner during a 16-month budget battle. Senate Republicans have no mathematical chance to get a majority in the Senate but hope to cut into the Democrats’ edge.
Further up the ballot, the race for the U.S. Senate seat pits Republican Mark Kirk, who is seeking a second term, against Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth. The race is among a handful that will determine which party controls the Senate next year. Polls have shown Duckworth has a comfortable lead.
Many were looking forward to the end of the 2016 election cycle, the nastiest in decades.
Clinton, who grew up in suburban Park Ridge, is expected to pick up Illinois’ 20 Electoral College votes. Illinois has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since 2000.
At a polling site in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood on the Far North Side, a diverse mix of Muslims, Orthodox Jews and African-American voters cast ballots Tuesday.
Tibeso Abbe, of Ethiopia, said it has been a “difficult election.”
“I hope Hillary will win and our country will move forward and not backward,” said Abbe, who became a U.S. citizen seven years ago. “America is a country of immigrants. This has to stay.”
While Illinois is not considered a battleground state, poll monitors are on the lookout for anyone trying to improperly influence the election. Trump had urged his supporters to monitor polling places, suggesting that there could be voter fraud and a rigged election.
He specifically cited Chicago as a place to watch. “Voter fraud is all too common, and then they criticize us for saying that,” he said at an October rally in Colorado Springs. “But take a look at Philadelphia, what’s been going on, take a look at Chicago, take a look at St. Louis. Take a look at some of these cities, where you see things happening that are horrendous.”
By 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, however, election officials had received few complaints.
“Things are extremely quiet so far,” said James Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of elections. “No major problems at all.”
Four minor complaints of electioneering had come in to election headquarters, like one of a judge wearing an Obama hat, records show.
Three polling places opened late for technical issues, but elections officials had not yet determined whether it was necessary to keep them open later to accommodate voters, Allen said.
Voters arrived at a Wrigleyville polling site at 6 a.m. to find a line already snaking down the block, resembling the crowds that gathered a week ago to watch the Cubs in the World Series.
The young voters were at Yak-Zies, a popular bar within sight of Wrigley Field. One election official wore a Cubs jersey while another used a flashlight to see ballots in the dark bar. Many voters wore Cubs hats, shirts and jackets and were recalling the long lines outside the bars during baseball season.
“It’s nice to see the same crowds showing up for voting,” said Katie Deplaris, 24.
She said it felt odd to vote in a bar though she welcomed the proximity to her home.