Updated 11/05/12 – 12:25 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Tomorrow’s voter turnout in and around Chicago might not be a record, but officials expect it will be substantial.
WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports Cook County Clerk David Orr said, while Illinois isn’t a swing state in the race for president, voters are fired up.
“Already more than a half a million voters in Cook County have cast their ballots before Election Day. That’s 20 percent of all the registered voters,” Orr said.
According to Orr’s office, 543,615 ballots have been cast so far in Chicago and the Cook County suburbs, only slightly less than the 557,161 ballots that were cast before Election Day in 2008. However, the 2008 total includes absentee ballots that arrived up to two weeks after Election Day, but were postmarked before then. As there are certainly more absentee ballots in this year, the 2012 total could still surpass 2008.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports
This year, 471,803 people have taken advantage of in-person absentee voting in Chicago and suburban Cook County; another 19,285 voted early after taking advantage of “Grace Period” voter registration after the normal registration deadline passed; and another 52,527 have mailed in absentee ballots so far.
Election officials noted the early voting period this year was four days shorter than 2008, but the average number of people who voted early each day was higher. In suburban Cook County, the average daily turnout for early voting this year was 18,854, compared to 13,879 four years ago.
Chicago Board of Elections Chairman Langdon Neal also predicted a strong turnout, even though 20 percent of voters in Chicago have a new polling place, due to redistricting.
“We ask all our voters in Chicago, please do what you can to find your polling place before tomorrow morning,” he said.
Both Neal and Orr predicted turnout in the 70 percent range, but probably not as strong as the turnout in 2008, when President Barack Obama was running for the first time.
“If I had to guess – and I have no other information – I doubt if we make it to 2008, but I think we’ll be in the 70-something percentile, which is very significant, totally unlike other times when it might have been 60 percent,” Orr said.
Neal said it’s okay for voters to bring cheat sheets into the voting booth, such as cards with recommendations, or newspaper editorials – or even your smart phone or tablet.
“We don’t want you taking pictures in the polling place with your smartphone or tablet, but you can have it in your pocket and you can use it,” Neal said.
Neal pointed out there are a lot of choices for voters. Chicago ballots take up two full pages, or 12 screens on touchscreen voting machines.
Officials stressed, while a photo ID was needed for early voting, it’s not needed to vote on Election Day. At most, you should only need a voter registration card, or utility bill to verify your voting address.
City and Cook County election officials also have set up hotlines for voters to get help on Election Day, and to report problems at their polling places.
In the city of Chicago, voters can call the Chicago Board of Elections’ hotline at 312-269-7870 with any questions, or to report problems or irregularities at their polling place. For the hearing impaired, the TTY line is 312-269-0027.
For suburban Cook County residents, the clerk’s office provided the following numbers for help on Election Day:
Voter help line (Polling Place location, and other voter services) – English: 312-603-0906
Voter help line – Spanish: 312-603-6767
Voter help line – Chinese: 312-603-6769
Voter help line – Hindi: 312-603-6749
Voter help line – Polish: 312-603-6770
Help line for voters with disabilities: 312-603-0929
TDD (for voters with hearing disabilities): 312-603-0902
To report voter fraud, technical problems, or other irregularities: 312-603-0236.
TEXT TO FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE
If you live in the city of Chicago, text your simplified Chicago address to (312) 361-8846 to get your polling place texted back to you. The catch is, your address must be simplified and stripped down; no apartment numbers or last names. For example, if your address is 1234 West 56 Street #100, you would text: 1234 W 56 ST.