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CHICAGO (CBS) – On the last day of early voting and “grace period” voter registration, a huge line formed outside the city’s election offices downtown, growing to more than two blocks for a time.
WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports it was four years ago, when Barack Obama was making his successful bid to become the nation’s first black president, that young voters were supposed to be energized. Not so for Caitlin.
“I feel like it’s finally time. Last time I didn’t get to, for the very first time when I turned 21, but I decided it was time this time,” she said. “I feel like I need a voice.”
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts Reports
South Side resident Jerome McClain also said it was important for him to cast a ballot on Saturday.
“This is the most important time of the year. We’re electing officials who’s going to run our country, right?” he said. “That’s what we’re voting for, to make sure we are heard, and that everything that we’re voting for gets pushed through.”
By late afternoon, the line at 69 W. Washington St. — which houses both the Chicago Board of Elections and the Cook County Clerk’s office, which oversees suburban voting — had grown so long, people were lined up from the Washington Street entrance, around the corner all the way south to Madison Street, and around the corner again, all the way west to Clark Street. Although the line was long, they appeared to move quickly throughout the day.
Most of those who were in line said they had to come downtown to vote early, because they needed to take advantage of “grace period” voter registration, so they could change their address.
Those who register during “grace period” must vote immediately after they register. The “grace period” deadline also ends Saturday.
Those waiting in line to register Saturday included one voter named Caroline.
“It is a civic responsibility to make sure that my voice is heard,” she said.
The 69 W. Washington St. location is the only place in Chicago where voters who still need to do so can change their address and then vote right away. That option won’t be available on Election Day, either.
Chicago Board of Elections spokesman James Allen said the number of people lining up for “grace period” registration was unprecedented.
“The number of these ‘true procrastinators’ will shatter the record numbers we saw during the Grace Period program of 2008,” Allen said.
Allen said the Chicago voters were on pace to cast more than 28,000 ballots on Saturday. Another 23,500 voted early on Friday.
Chicago election officials estimated more than 240,000 early ballots would be cast this year, about the same number of early ballots cast in 2008, when there were 18 days to vote early, compared to only 14 this year.
There also were reports of long lines at many suburban voting locations, including in Berwyn, where the polling place had only six voting machines.
Karen Patton said she had no choice but to vote early in Berwyn.
“I have to be at work at 5 in the morning, and I will probably not get out of there until well after the polls close,” Patton said. “Because of that, I don’t want to risk the chance that I wouldn’t get to vote, so I will stick it out here as long as I have to to get my vote in.”
In suburban Cook County, more than 220,000 people have cast early ballots so far, according to the County Clerk’s office.
WBBM Newsradio has heard from at least one voter who claimed campaign workers tried to talk him out of voting, telling him he wouldn’t make it in the door before 5 p.m., and that he’d be turned away.
But Chicago Board of Elections and Cook County Clerk’s officials were clear on this point: if a voter was in line at any early voting location before 5 p.m., they would be allowed to vote, no matter how long the line.
If you want to register as well as vote, the only location for Chicago voters to do so is 69 W. Washington St. Suburban Cook County residents also can register there, as well as at the Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Bridgeview and Markham courthouses.