Some Chicago polling places had yet to open when voting officially began at 6 a.m. for today’s primary election, as late-arriving poll workers and no-shows caused delayed starts for an election that is expected to draw fewer voters overall.
As of 8:30 a.m., state Rep. Delia Ramirez, a Democrat running in the 3rd Congressional District race, was one of two voters who had shown up at her polling place at Harriet Beecher Stowe School in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, which opened with two of four poll workers still yet to arrive.
Ramirez said while she was en route to vote, she saw volunteers in front of the voting site at Yates Elementary School did not have voting booths open as of 6:45 a.m.
“Unfortunately, Lillian and I talked to a number of voters who said, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve been waiting, I have to get to work,” said Ramirez, who addressed reporters alongside Lillian Jiménez, who is running to replace Ramirez’s seat in the Illinois House.
“We have people who absolutely understand the importance of voting, especially when we see what’s happening in the country, and they won’t be able to vote,” Ramirez said.
A poll worker at the school later told the Tribune that while they had opened on time, they were short staffed with half the number of judges as usual. Between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., there were 137 voters split between three precincts at the location, the worker said.
Michele Ryba of Archer Heights said she showed up to her polling place at Edwards Elementary School at 8:45 a.m. only to discover she could not vote because no election judges had shown up. Several people trying to vote were turned away, she said.
Ryba, who works as a marketing director in the hospitality industry, ended up voting instead at the Archer Heights Library, an early voting location.
“At least I got to vote,” she wrote in an email to the Tribune. “I wonder how many people were turned away due to election judges not showing up and voters not being directed to an alternate polling place.”
Some sites opened later because of judges who resigned in recent days, including some who resigned as late as 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., said Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Max Bever. Officials are still identifying those locations. Generally speaking, he said, there aren’t any long lines, including early voting sites that have been open for a few weeks.
By 3 p.m. on Election Day, the total number of ballots counted in Chicago was 220,019, representing 14.7% of eligible voters citywide, Bever said. Turnout increased steadily throughout the morning, with most people voting around 2 p.m.. A total of 91,346 ballots were cast on Election Day in the city as of 3 p.m., with the highest number of votes cast among people ages 65 to 74, Bever said.
Election officials wary of lower voter turnout had urged voters to cast their votes early by mail, before leaving town for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Along with falling on a nonpresidential election year, the primary date is unusually late. The election was moved from its usual March date because 2020 U.S. Census Bureau numbers needed for redistricting were late, making it the latest Illinois has held a primary since at least the Great Depression.
While in-person early voting lagged behind the last midterm, more people are voting by mail than in the 2018 midterms.
Statewide, 460,114 votes had been cast early or by mail as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, compared with 449,749 in 2018, according to Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections. That includes 171,556 mail ballots returned so far, compared with 96,875 mail ballots in 2018.
Another 166,859 mail ballots remained unreturned as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dietrich said.
In Chicago, 115,545 ballots had been cast through early voting or voting by mail by the close of early voting Monday evening, Bever said. By comparison, a total of 129,509 ballots had been cast the day before the 2018 midterm primary, Bever said.
While early voting tallies were lower overall in Chicago, more than twice as many ballots were returned by mail before the election compared with 2018, mirroring the trend seen statewide. As of yesterday, 51,078 ballots had been returned by mail, compared with 20,228 one day before the 2018 election, Bever said.
Another 73,801 mail-in ballots had yet to be returned in Chicago as of Monday. Today is the last day a mail-in ballot can be postmarked to be counted. Any ballot postmarked after June 28 will not be counted, and ballots must be received by local election authorities by July 12.
Voters who are not yet registered can do so at their assigned polling place before casting their vote. (Check your polling place here). Those in line at 7 p.m. when the polls close are still allowed to fill out their ballots. Voters can only pick nominees from one political party. If you voted in any previous primary, you can select the same or a different party ballot.
The highest-profile race on the Republican ballot is picking who will face Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the Nov. 8 general election. Several GOP candidates also are competing to represent the party against Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth. And the Illinois secretary of state’s race is up for grabs on both sides of the aisle with Jesse White, who has held the office since 1999, not seeking reelection.
More than 160 teams of assistant attorneys general and investigators from the Illinois attorney general’s office are monitoring the election throughout Illinois for potential problems, according to a news release. Voters who suspect improper or illegal activity can call 866-536-3496 in Chicago and northern Illinois, or 866-559-6812 in central and southern Illinois.