Barring a late surge of voters, election officials are estimating voter turnout in today’s mayoral election could be as low as 40 percent, well off the 50 percent predicted.
Polls are set to close at 7 p.m. Langdon Neal, chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said the turnout could be anywhere from 40 percent to 45 percent. He said those figures have been consistent across the city and no parts of the city showed significantly higher voter participation than others.
“Citywide it’s pretty even,” Neal said, saying snow this morning didn’t help matters. “I think this morning it wasn’t ideal. That’s a factor.”
The two previous municipal elections had about 33 percent turnout, Neal said, but election officials expected to reach about 50 percent given this was the first year in more than a half-century that an incumbent wasn’t running for mayor.
-- David Kidwell
4:24 p.m. Two boozing judges, one just napping
On an otherwise slow Election Day in Chicago, there is now a second election judge who has been ousted from his post for being drunk.
It happened in the 11th Ward. An investigator from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners went to the fire station at 3509 S Lowe Ave. and ejected a judge who “smelled of booze."
Earlier in the day, another judge was yanked for showing up to a polling place intoxicated.
In the 37th ward at the Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy, another judge apparently spent part of the afternoon napping during voting, according to the board’s reports. Investigators got witness confirmation that the judge spent "45 minutes off to the side and not executing responsibilities."
The judge was told that napping is not allowed.
-- David Kidwell
2:51 p.m. In Uptown, lowered expectations
The crowded race to replace Ald. Helen Schiller in the 46th Ward drew a steady stream of voters in some precincts but failed to generate much interest in others.
In the 38th precinct in Uptown, about 100 people had voted by noon. But just after noon, seven people showed up at once, the biggest surge poll workers had seen all day.
Election judge Connie Wade said she normally likes to be the 300th voter to cast a ballot, but today she decided to settle on 200th because of the low turn-out. “I’m going to wait and see what happens at 5:30. If we’re not close, I’ll change it again,” she said.
David Stein, 53, was among the lunchtime voters who showed up in a subsidized residential building in Uptown. For him, the aldermanic race was more important than the mayoral race.
“It’s very important in this ward to preserve affordable housing and serve a diverse population that includes economic and class as well as racial,” said Stein. “Some candidates are for that and some are not.”
Stein said he voted for Marc Kaplan for alderman and Miguel del Valle for mayor.
“(De Valle) seems the most like a man of the people and not big money interests,” said Stein. “Rahm (Emanuel) is too connected to Wall Street and appeals to their interests. They already have too much clout, so they don’t need to be in Chicago City Hall.”
Closer to the lakefront, some voters said they turned out to vote for Emanuel.
“It’s a big change in Chicago,” said Margaret O’Hara, who cast her vote for Emanuel in a high-rise near Lake Shore Drive. “It’s important that the next mayor understand the importance of keeping the Magnificent Mile nice, with art and flowers.”
She described Rahm first with an expletive. Then she added, “I can’t say that. I mean he’s a go-getter.”
Gary Koenig, 53, said he also like Emanuel because he’s someone who can get the job done in these tough times.
“He’s hard-nosed and the most qualified," said Koenig.
-- Dahleen Glanton
1:30 p.m. Improvising when elevator breaks down
Nearly 100 voters had filed into the South Shore branch of the Chicago Public Library as of 1 p.m.
Poll watcher Richard Wright said election officials had to improvise when the elevator to the poll at 2505 East 79th St. broke. "We've been going downstairs to accommodate seniors who couldn't get upstairs," Wright said. "We don't need any extra obstacles to voting."
Outside, 7th Ward aldermanic candidate Sidney H. Brooks stood on the corner passing out flyers and chatting with passersby -- something he'd been doing throughout the neighborhood since 6 a.m..
"I'm the only aldermanic candidate you'll see out on the streets," Brooks said.
But Brooks said the turnout in the ward pales with what he saw in previous aldermanic elections and with the 2008 presidential election.
"Hopefully it picks up when people get off of work," he said.
He had one voter in his corner this afternoon. "I voted for Mr. Brooks because he's a fresh face," said Jasmine Hendricks, 21. "Sandi Jackson hasn't done much for this community for a long time."
-- Dawn Rhodes
12:57 p.m. Bored judges cheer when 2 voters show up
Voter turnout was so slow at Warren Park on the city's North Side that election judges cheered when two voters walked in.
Only 71 voters, out of 600 in the 50th ward precinct, had voted as of 12:30 pm. Turnout was similarly slow for the other two precincts voting at warren park.
"It should be packed at lunch hour and it's not," said Kathy Holdren, one of six judges staring at seven empty voting booths.
"It goes faster if we have more people," she said.
"I would like to know if people aren't excited about their choices or are not excited about voting," added judge Gregory Cook.
Amanda Montgomery, a senior at Jones College Preparatory High School, was working as a student election judge for $170 for the day. The lesson she learned was one of voter apathy.
"It's surprising that not a lot of people come out to vote," said Montgomery, 17, not yet old enough to vote herself.
-- Jodi Cohen
11:39 a.m. A sleepy pastor and banned candy
One Chicago polling place opened late this morning thanks to a sleepy pastor and one election judge has been sent home for showing up drunk.
But overall, the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners was reporting a reasonably smooth day of voting.
Voters were turned away from the New Heritage Cathedral at 5848 S. Princeton Ave. after the pastor overslept. The 20th Ward polling place opened 50 minutes late and will likely be the only voting spot in the city to remain open late tonight, said Langdon Neal, chairman of the election commissioners board.
Neal also said that two elections judges were stripped of their responsibilities, one for showing up drunk and the other for heatedly arguing with firefighters over the placement of their emergency vehicles inside the polling place, which happened to be a fire station.
As of 11 a.m., the board reported 169 electioneering complaints, 727 equipment issues, 383 poll worker or judge issues and 195 supply issues.
One of dozens of minor electioneering complaints involved Ald. Rey Colon, 35th, who was delivering coffee this morning emblazoned with his name to every precinct in the ward, according to elections office records.
Poll workers were instructed to remove his name from polling places and the matter was reported to the Cook County state's attorney's office.
An elections office investigator reported removing labels "from some bagel products" at the Logan Square Library.
Two young campaign workers for Gery Chico told elections investigator James Glass that they moved their politicking operation into the 14th Ward polling place at 4537 S. Archer Ave "because it's snowing outside," he wrote in one complaint report. He "told them it was not allowed and they moved outside."
In the 41st Ward, candidate Ryan Tooker called elections officials to complain that rival Mary O'Connor was passing out candy emblazoned with her name and business cards at all the ward’s polling places.
Investigator Lynne Ostfeld said the candidate's name was removed from candy at the Wildwood School polling place, and she was checking other precincts.
-- David Kidwell
10:18 a.m. Low turnout in some precincts
Voting was slow in the 48th Ward in Margate Park, where only a handful of people had trickled into some of the precincts since the polls opened.
There were no lines, no waiting at the 4th precinct. The single electronic machine was down for about an hour when the polls opened but there were ample opportunities for people to use the manual machines. Precinct workers said only 70 of the 786 registered voters had cast ballots as of around 9 a.m.
Terrence Hayden, 67, said this is the first real mayoral election Chicago has had in years.
"It's not the Daley machine. It's new players," said Hayden. "Prior to this, it didn’t’ matter who you voted for, Daley was going to win. This time we have a real choice."
For Hayden and his wife Liz, 62, that choice was Rahm Emanuel.
“He will try to do the right thing for as many people as possible," said Liz Hayden.
Her husband added, "He’s just a phone call away from the White House."
Down the street in the 24th precinct, the situation was worse. Only 17 people had voted this morning. Workers joked about whether they would even see 60 all day.
"This is much slower than I’ve ever seen it," said Linda Banks, a polling place administrator who has worked elections for many years. "I don’t know if it’s because of the candidates or if nobody gives a care anymore."
"We could have brought our cots and went to bed," she quipped.
-- Dahleen Glanton
10:09 a.m. A survey of predictions
Eric Zorn's survey of 16 local political commentators willing to make predictions showed 11 predicting an outright win for Rahm Emanuel today with 5 predicting a runoff.
In the comments area, however, 21 readers offered fairly detailed predictions, and only 7 predicted an outright win for Emanuel. Fourteen are forecasting a runoff.
9:54 a.m. 'First time we feel like we have a choice'
Joy and Chris Donohoe brought their toddler son with them to vote this morning at Coonley Elementary School in the 47th ward. They saw it as a historic moment, a rare time when – because Ald. Eugene Schulter was not running for the first time in more than three decades – there was no incumbent mayor or alderman on their ballot.
"We have been here for 15 years, and it is the first time we feel like we have a choice," Joy Donohoe said. "The power of the incumbent in this city is so strong that it is difficult to overcome. It is not a dig against Mayor Daley. It was always just a foregone conclusion he would win."
Chris Donohoe said there is a lot hanging in the balance with this election.
"The stakes are really high with budget deficits, less revenue, increased takes -- we better get it right this time," he said. "Someone is going to have to make some tough decisions."
In the same ward where Rahm Emanuel announced his candidacy in November, about 10 percent of the registered voters had turned out by 9 am.
"It is about normal so far," said election judge Mike Kirkpatrick.
Kim Hanna, 41, called the election "an exciting time" with so many new names on the ballot.
"The biggest thing for me is all the energy I have seen," she said. "The biggest issue is the status of the current city budget and how to attack the hole in the budget without destroying what we have in the city."
"There is anticipation and sort of anxiety about where the city is going and where this neighborhood goes from here," Hanna said about her North Center neighborhood.
Mary O'Donnell was battling the flurries as she handed out pamphlets in support of her cousin, Tom O'Donnell, for 47th Ward alderman. Her strategy? Rock back and forth to stay warm.
"It's the wind that kills you," she said. "I have been doing this many years. I was hoping I would get a little warmer day."
Sarah Strang was a little wistful as she voted for Rahm Emanuel for mayor.
"I am sad to see Daley go. I don’t want to see someone new come in," said Strang, a North Center resident who brought her 5-year-old son with her to vote.
Although she has lived in Chicago for about 20 years, Strang said it was the first time she can remember voting in a mayoral election.
"You just assumed (Daley) would win. Why waste your time?" she said. "This time we have a choice."
-- Jodi Cohen
7:42 a.m. Chico starts day in Little Italy
Mayoral candidate Gery Chico got an early start to his day, greeting voters in the Little Italy neighborhood in the opening hours of today's election.
But not as early as some folks. Chico and his wife, Sunny, arrived at The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii at 1224 W. Lexington around 7:30 a.m. But campaign volunteers said they were camped just outside the no-electioneering zone by 6 a.m. More than 2,000 Chico volunteers throughout the city got started at 4 a.m., he said.
"We're confident in the message that we've put out there," Chico said. "If you want more jobs in our neighborhoods, I'm your guy. If you want better schools throughout our city, I'm your guy. And if you want safer streets with more police, I'm your guy."
So it was the case for Martin McGlone, 45, who cast his vote for Chico just after 8 a.m. On his way to work.
"I feel he's a true-blood Chicagoan," he said.
"The Hispanic community is voting for you," one supporter said to Chico, shaking his hand.
Just a few dozen voters, cups of coffee in hand, had sprinkled into the church to make their choices. As of 8 a.m., about 50 ballots had been cast, according to election officials.
Katie Klabusich, 31, did not reveal who she voted for but said she was grateful for the chance to consider someone other than outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley.
"I think it's time to change something," she said. "I always voted for (Daley) but sometimes that was for lack of option. The choice today was about who was most equipped."
-- Dawn Rhodes
6:07 a.m. Polls open for historic election
Chicagoans are voting today in one of the city's most historic municipal elections. Polls opened at 6 a.m.
For the first time in 64 years, a sitting mayor is not running for re-election. It also marks the first time in 22 years that the name of Richard Daley is not on the mayoral ballot.
Polls show former congressman and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel well ahead of his three major challengers: Carol Moseley Braun, the former U.S. senator and the first black woman elected to that office; Gery Chico, who has held high-level positions at City Hall, Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District and City Colleges, and Miguel del Valle, the first Latino in the state Senate and currently city clerk.
Also on the ballot are Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and community activist William "Dock" Walls.
The big question appears to be whether Emanuel can get the 50 percent plus one vote needed to avoid a one-on-one runoff election April 5.
The election also will result in a major City Council makeover. Across the city, 239 men and women are running for alderman, with only seven uncontested races in the 50 wards.
Chicago election officials expect voter turnout of slightly over 50 percent. Polls close at 7 p.m.
The U.S. attorney's office and the Cook County state's attorney's office are monitoring polling places for any irregularities reported and to investigate allegations of fraud.
Return here often throughout the day for updates.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun