Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=101089
Story Retrieval Date: 5/21/2013 2:34:26 AM CST
They say that Chicagoans vote early and vote often. This election year suburban voters are heeding the former.
Suburban Cook County voters are taking advantage of early voting in a big way as Election Day draws near. By Wednesday night 24,803 ballots had been cast in the first three days of early voting, according to the Cook County clerk’s office. Lake County is also seeing large turnout with 11,618 completed ballots as of Thursday afternoon.
One of the polling places where voters showed up Thursday morning to beat the Election Day rush was the Alsip Village Hall.
Merrionette Park resident Roy Smith said early voting as his only chance to cast a ballot.
Counties in the metropolitan area have made a concerted effort to publicize early voting.
Cook County Clerk David Orr said early voting is a relief on voting equipment on Election Day. Orr said he expected the number of early voters to triple the 51,000 who voted early in February’s primaries. Still, Orr was surprised as the numbers came in.
All early voters in suburban Cook County will use touch screen voting machines that keep a paper record of the vote, said Courtney Greve, Cook County clerk spokeswoman. Early votes are not tabulated until polls close on Election Day.
Mixing the early votes makes it impossible to determine the preferences of early voters, Greve said.
John Bonifaz, legal director of the non-profit advocacy group Voter Action, sees early voting as just one step in opening up elections to the greatest number of people.
“We think [early voting] is helpful to make sure that the ballot box is accessible . . . we also believe it is important to support Election Day registration, weekend voting and Election Day holidays,” Bonifaz said.
Early voting can also have an effect on how political campaigns strategize.
Gaines also said the statistical evidence shows early voting has a relatively small impact on overall voter turnout.