Chicago Voters Head To Polls
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UPDATED 02/22/11 11:09 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Voters are turning out at the polls Tuesday, as they cast their ballots in the first mayoral race in 22 years that has not included the name Richard M. Daley.
As CBS 2’s Susanna song reports, before the polls opened at 6 a.m., election officials said they expected voter turnout to be slightly more than 50 percent. They say the limited turnout could be due to several factors, including voter fatigue since the statewide elections were just in November, and the snowy weather and icy sidewalks.
Voters are choosing between Rahm Emanuel, Carol Moseley Braun, Miguel Del Valle, Gery Chico, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and William “Dock” Walls for mayor.
Voter turnout will determine whether the election will start and end Tuesday, or whether there will be a runoff on April 5. In a runoff, the top two finishing candidates face off if no single candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote the first time around.
Two hours after the polls opened, election judges at Chicago Embassy Church, at 5848 S. Princeton Ave. in the 20th Ward, were just starting to assemble voting machines and booths. They had to turn voters away because they weren’t ready.
“Hopefully, we can stop depriving people the right to vote,” said polling administrator Adrienne Nelson. She said at least six or seven people had to be turned away.
Nelson said at 6 a.m. when the polling place was supposed to open, the pastor who had the keys was nowhere to be found.
“If you’re not going to cooperate with the procedure, you shouldn’t volunteer your place,” Nelson said.
Chicago Board of Elections chairman Langdon Neal said after investigating, the board will ask the Cook County clerk’s office to keep the polling place open late. The board will also contact voters who might have been turned away find out if they can come back during the later hours, Neal said.
Elsewhere, voters said that with Mayor Daley not on the ballot, they had to pay more attention.
“It was a little different. I think I had to do a little more reading; a little more homework,” said Todd Scholman.
“For the alderman, it was a pretty easy choice, but for the mayor, I was a little bit undecided on that, so it was kind of an up-in-the-air choice,” said Roderick Moorehead.
At the Wayne-Wright American Legion Hall, 1258 W. Wrightwood Ave., voters trickled in one-by-one, submitting their ballots. Joe Pratt brought his 10-year-old son, Jason, to give him a lesson in democracy.
“It’s very important, after you see what’s going on in places like Egypt, where the fight for democracy is so prevalent,” Pratt said.
Not everyone was excited about the mayoral race.
“I didn’t vote for anyone because I don’t believe in any of their principles,” one man said, adding that he had only voted for an aldermanic candidate.
For the “only in Chicago” file, Newsradio 780′s Bernie Tafoya reports that at another North Side precinct, a couple of voters drove up in a Bentley–with Michigan license plates.
Meanwhile, the candidates were out campaigning and casting their own ballots. Braun voted at the Ray School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., and shook hands with supporters before heading into the booth.
Chicago voted on South Michigan Avenue. Analysts say he is the only one who might end up in a runoff with Emanuel.
Emanuel and Del Valle both voted early. On Tuesday morning, Emanuel did some very last-minute handshaking at the 69th Street Red Line stop, while Del Valle visited a polling place on North Orleans Street.
Watkins and Walls also met with voters Tuesday morning.
Voters will also be choosing between Susana Mendoza and Patricia Horton for city clerk. Ballots will also be cast for city treasurer – a race in which Stephanie Neely is running unopposed.
Voters will also choose the aldermen for their wards. In seven races, the candidates are running unopposed, but many more are just as heated as the mayoral race.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore: Aldermanic Races To Watch
The polls close at 7 p.m.