As an election worker my goal is to create a safe and viable environment for voters. In these days of pandemic it is no simple task, made no easier than limitations as to where a polling place can be located.
Early Voting, my particular bailiwick, has for many elections been held inside Room G300 at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. In the past we have had as many as thirty voting stations and eight check-in stations in the confines of G300. November’s Presidential election and the pandemic changed our approach and layout.
A couple of months prior to the start of Early Voting, Cook County representatives, City workers and I met to map out the best possible solution to maintain a degree of social distancing for all, voters and poll workers. While not ideal, the plan worked, eventually.
The first day of Early Voting highlighted a flaw in the flow of voters; this was quickly rectified with cooperation from the City’s officials. The Early Voting session for the November election saw a daily average total of some 1,000-plus voters; this includes those dropping off mail-in ballots. Having participated in many elections as an Early Voting judge/technician those are extraordinary numbers. Yea!
Fast forward to the February primary, the key races being Mayor, City Clerk, Fourth and Eighth Ward aldermanic.
Evanston has some 53,040 registered voters.
The Fourth Ward has 6 precincts with a total of 5,909 registered voters.
The Eighth Ward has five precincts with a total of 5,613 registered voters.
Given the published number of voters being around the 8,000 mark and adjusting for as yet to be tabulated mail-in ballots (there were fewer than 100 we received at Early Voting) even generously rounding up to 10,000 total votes being cast, less than one fifth of eligible voters have decided who is to be the next mayor, city clerk (if the write-in candidates do not meet a certain threshold the person on the ballot wins) and who can run for alderman of the Fourth and Eighth wards.
Think about that for a moment or two.
Did your favorite candidate succeed?
Are you content with the results?
Are you satisfied less than 20% of eligible voters have decided the fate of your City for the next four years?
Are you willing to accept the consequences of your lack of participation (well done, those of you who did brave the inclement weather) in this process that thousands of people died for?
Speaking of those who participated in Early Voting, we had the full range of ages and abilities enter our Early Voting polling place: from first time voters to those celebrating 99 years of life, from folks who were able to walk in unaided to folks who used their powered chair to travel to our site and used our special needs devices to vote.
In a couple of weeks we all get to revisit this amazing process not enjoyed by other populations.
While two of the political races may have been already decided, there will be opportunities to ensure your ward is represented by the most qualified candidate.
Alongside the aldermanic races are those for the people who will decide how the schools are run. For those of you who think the school board has no impact on you, think again, from taxes to future generations of local and world leaders in all aspects of life will be affected by the decisions of the school board.
If for no other reason, participate in the democratic process to pay homage to those souls lost to the fight for your right to participate.
— Steve Lemieux-Jordan