By Max Greenwood and Aryn Braun
Photos by Raquel Zaldivar
Voters from around Chicago flocked to precincts Tuesday to cast their ballots in the 2016 primary elections. But what’s driving them to the polls? Medill Reports asked Chicagoans what issues they think are important and what voting means to them.
Earl Moore, 21
“No. 1 one is, do I trust the people that I voted for to do right? I want someone to focus on education, on keeping the price down. I’m a student. There is no reason why we should be paying the price of a new car to get something they say we are required to have. But it’s costing us $30-, $40-, $50-, $60,000 to do that.
Another issue is economic development in communities that don’t have much representation, or don’t have the income that they need to thrive or even just survive. I guess that ties in with education. The opportunity to improve your life, for people to improve their lives.”
Bernarnda “Bernie” Wong, 72
“For years and years, the Chinese have been contributing members of the community. These last few years, we finally got this whole area redistricted, so that we can be one block.
In Chicago, I guess that’s how it works, you know, it’s a big machine, politics. We want to tell whoever the establishment is that it’s time for the Chinese to speak up. I’ve worked 37 years in this community. I got up at 3:30 a.m. today, and I’m 72 years old and I have a cough, and in spite of all that I got up and I do this because I feel this is extremely important.”
Jose Medina, 24
“I don’t want my mom paying too much for her medicine. She used to work for the government, she put in her time, she worked hard. I want to make sure she’s taken care of. That’s the big thing, right? We got to take care of our own.
We also got to do something about the police. You hear about it more and more, that the situation is out of control. It’s ridiculous. We’re always hearing about people getting shot, getting hurt or killed by police. And it’s not just here, it’s everywhere. That’s something the president needs to go after.”
Teara Maggett, 29
“Just watching the news, every day you see something about laws being changed, things being cut. It feels like they’re cutting everything, like childcare. Just seeing friends and neighbors, it’s hard. They can’t afford childcare; they don’t make enough. What they do make goes to paying bills, so you have people who lose their job, quit their job to take care of their kids.
I’m asking myself, ‘Who’s going to continue to make everything better after Obama?’ I think Obama’s doing a good job, and we need someone here who’s going to keep up that work. We need someone who, you know, wants to make sure people have their basic needs.”
Donovan Keen, 19
“Now that I’m actually of age to vote, and I know that a lot of people don’t vote, I think it’s kind of a waste if I pass it up because I’m too lazy or just decide I don’t have the time to do it.
It feels good that I’ve actually done something productive. I know that I could have stayed home and played video games or typed a paper, but I took the time to actually come and do this.
I have a couple friends who are still not voting yet or have decided not to. They just don’t care or they’re not registered and don’t want to go through the hassle of getting registered, even though it doesn’t really take that much.”
Lisa Anderson, 25
“I have a sister who’s in school studying journalism right now, and I know she is going to have a ton of loans by the time she graduates. I was fortunate that I was able to get a job after college and actually pay off my student loans at a reasonable time, but I know that’s not the case for most people and it costs way more to go to college now than it did in the past for our parent’s generation, so making college more affordable is a big one for me.”
Justin Collins, 47
“Voting is the democratic way. It’s ’bout the best way I know of right now to get things done that you need to get done. The first time I voted I was elated, I was beside myself. I didn’t know what to do; 1978 was the first time I was able to vote. Just turned 18 years old, and I was able to show my power. I was always watching my elders go to vote, which I was too young to do at the time and I couldn’t wait for my opportunity.”
Darlene Ostrowski, 44
“I want to support a candidate who isn’t part of the system, who isn’t part of the political machine, who actually cares about people and what we’re going through. Someone who pays attention to the fact that people are struggling money-wise.
I’m concerned with the economy, with jobs. People are struggling, my family has been struggling, and it seems like everyone we know is struggling financially. I think we’re at a point where we need someone who will stand up and say that this isn’t OK and that we need major changes.”
Edith Nelson, 55
“I just had a child that graduated last year from the University of Chicago and can’t find a job. But we still got to pay the loans back. The way the election is going right now, it’s a mess. We need to be coming together, not falling apart. It’s like we’ve gone back 50 years. You know, the country is diversifying. We need someone who respects that diversity; that actually addresses racism and tries to bring us all together.
Even if there was a bad candidate, I’ve always voted. If you don’t vote, it’s like a no vote. I’m just one person, but, you never know, it might be the one vote to put them over, to decide the winner.”
Robert Cannata, 30
“It’s our civic duty. If you want to be able to bitch and moan later on about it, you gotta be able to say you participated. It’s the only time people actually have power. I’ve participated in every election cycle since I was 18.
For me, it’s always the struggle between the haves and the have-nots. I think we the people are losing a lot of power, our rights are being eroded, and we just have to fight back.”
Alexis Alb, 32
“This whole American Dream thing, like, it not being this thing that people just vote for but actually being able to work and earn a paycheck and send your kids to school and take care of your family if you put in an honest day’s work. That’s important for me. Better schools, better social systems, better support for people when they need help.
The economy is No. 1 right now, I think. Creating equal opportunities for everybody is something that we should be working toward. We need to steer the conversation toward that, toward making, you know, that American Dream actually achievable.”
Antonio Foster, 18
“I’m 18, I figured this is something you gotta do, and everyone does it. It’s just a part of everyday life. You have to vote for your leaders. It feels pretty good, you know? The whole thought of voting for someone to lead you to represent your voice? It’s very weird.
I’m actually considering becoming a police officer. I definitely believe that there is a sense of corruption within the police force, and that’s part of the reason why I want to join is to put a stop to that. I know I won’t stop it, but I’ll make somewhat of a change. These past few months with the incidents that have happened, it’s been very eye-opening for everyone, but I’m very optimistic.”