Precinct Changes Slow, But Don't Stop, North Side Voters
Election judges say polling places on the North Side were slammed from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesday. Voting had slowed between about 9:30 a.m. and noon, but poll workers fully expect an after-dinner rush. See what local voters told Patch at the polls.
North Sider AnnaLisa Lynn said she headed to the polls Tuesday morning to fight a potential apocalypse—Mitt Romney getting elected.
"I'm serious," she said, with a laugh, while leaving the Welles Park polling place at 2333 W. Sunnyside Ave. in Ravenswood. "He scares me."
Despite many precinct boundary changes, Chicagoans were showing up in force Tuesday to vote at the city's more-than 2,000 polling places. Lynn was among 182 who had cast her ballot as of around 11 a.m. at Welles Park site, which included precincts 14 and 42. A total of 648 residents from Ravenswood, Lincoln Square and North Center were directed there, said election judge Bette Vidina, 71.
But not everyone made it to their polling places without hitting a few speed bumps.
Lynn Rau walked into Welles shortly before 11 a.m., looking distressed.
"Please tell me you have my ballot," she told the election judges.
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Changes to the precincts, which spawned from the latest 2010 U.S. Census data, made voting confusing for those like Rau. The Welles Park polling place was her fourth stop Tuesday.
"We didn't get a letter in the mail about this change," she said. "Other people did but we didn't. … I think they should extend voting because a lot of people will want to vote when they get off work tonight and if they run into what I ran into, they're not going to make it in time before the polls close."
Election judge Krista August was at the helm a couple miles down the street, in North Center, just below the Addison brown line stop, where bar flies were replaced by poll watchers.
The polling place? Cork Lounge, 1822 W. Addison St. The crimson "Election Polling Place" sign was posted in the window beside a chalkboard that read "PBRs only $2 EVERY DAY!"
"The owner let us in at 5 a.m., but then he left," August said, emphasizing that the bar was closed until the evening.
Almost half of voters registered in the 27th precinct had stopped by the lounge as of 12:30 p.m.—288 of 610, to be exact.
"When we opened the doors at 6 a.m., we already had people waiting in line," she said. "Some waited in hour. But by 10 a.m., that wait was down to about 20 minutes and now there really isn't one."
Five voters' feet were visible below the ballot boxes around lunchtime. Rosemary Bednarczyk, 67, was among them. She exercised her right to vote for Barack Obama, she said.
"I checked the weather and it wasn't raining or snowing," she said while using a walker and adding that "I just got my hip done." "I figured, it's a little cold out, but I can make it."
Although the National Weather Service predicted some drizzles for Election Day, the rain was holding out as of around 1 p.m. And the early morning freezing temperatures certainly didn't stop voters from casting their ballots—at least not at Lake View's Sheil Park on Southport Avenue.
By about 11:30 a.m., a total of 724 had done so there but foot traffic had slowed to a trickle. Poll workers said the morning was "busy, busy," with a packed gymnasium between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. They expected it to pick up again around 5 p.m. Veteran workers noted that the turnout so far felt similar to that of the 2008 election.
Ryanna Christianson and Alexa French hit the polls on Southport, and they checked the box for Obama. The girls, who were in their 20s, said voting for him just seemed like the responsible thing to do.
" … It's what's right," French said. "He's done a good job so far, and not even Romney could turn this around in only four years."
Get the Buzz at Other Local Polling Places
- "I'm voting for Romney because I'm a Republican and I want change," said James B. Roberts Jr., who cast his ballot at Sheil Park on Southport.
- "So far I just love it, but I think I'll get a little more sleep the night before next time," said Katherine Hamen, who spent Election Day serving for her first time as an Election Judge at Lincoln Park Library, 1150 W. Fullerton Ave., where 400 had voted by noon. Workers there were required to stop in Monday at 4 p.m. for a two-hour check-in to prepare for their 15-hour Election Day. "It's been a little kooky this year with changing the wards. We've had help a little more to get them to the right poling place."
- As of around noon, there were 275 ballots cast at the Merlo Library on Belmont Avenue in the heart of Lake View, said Election Judge Danny Bravman. The morning was intensely busy, he said, and that tapered off quickly—a surprising turn of events considering many wanting to cast their ballots before work waited in line at the site for more than two hours.
- "I would say we're getting a steady flow but it's not very heavy," Election Judge Bette Vidina, 71, said, of the turnout at Welles Park in Ravenswood. "We've run into some confusion because of peoples' precincts changing, but other than that, everything's been pretty smooth."
- Voter Sheila Murphy, of Lincoln Square, said she didn't have any problem identifying her polling place at Welles. "The precinct did change for me, but I was aware of that," she said.
- Tom Pittman, 29, wasn't so lucky. He was leaving the Welles Park polling place because he was told he doesn't vote there anymore. "I just want to do my thing," he said. "I'm voting for Obama, even though the state (of Illinois) is pretty blue. You've got to exercise your right."
- Not every polling place Tuesday was calm and collected. One voter, "TS" posted on Everyblock that as of 6 a.m., the Lincoln Belmont Library, 1659 W. Melrose St., was chaotic. She said those in charge were "overwhelmed, disorganized" and a "hot mess." "They were ill-prepared, there was no clear leadership in the room, didn't have pens for voting(!), didn't ask for ID, weren't sure how to organize voters in line, couldn't locate registered people in the books, didnt know what district they were representing, were forgetting to sign the ballots before handing them off, didn't know how to process them once completed ... " she wrote.
North Side Patch Editors Sarah Flagg and Andy Ambrosius contributed to this report.