Evanston polling locations quiet on Election Day


Illustration by Jacob Fulton.

On Election Day, Evanston polling locations were mostly quiet, which some attribute to an increased use in early voting and mail-in ballots.

Delaney Nelson and Andrew Myers

As polls opened at 6 a.m., Evanston voters showed up sporadically to polling locations across the city, for the most part avoiding the long lines seen in other parts of the country.

The city’s 26 polling places, spread across nine wards, marked a significant expansion from the lone early voting location at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. For the most part, the locations stayed quiet, with a slow stream of voters arriving in person to cast their ballots.

Despite warnings of long lines due to social distancing and calls to remain in line to vote no matter how long it took, some voters said they were not concerned about potential wait times or fears associated with COVID-19.

Virginia Robbins, an Evanston resident who cast her vote at the Robert Crown Community Center, said she would do “whatever it takes to vote” regardless of lines or COVID-19.

At the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, resident Jim Nolan didn’t wait in any lines to vote, and said the process went by quickly. He said he voted in person on Election Day as a precaution, partially because of President Donald Trump’s threats to delegitimize mail-in voting.

“I always like to see the most information possible,” Nolan said. “I was actually really nervous about Trump’s throwing away of mail-in ballots.”

Similar concerns were directed towards the United States Postal Service, which has been criticized for its delivery delays.

Darlene Cannon, a candidate for alderman of Evanston’s 2nd Ward who was waiting outside the McGaw YMCA, talked about her concerns surrounding mail-in ballots.

“I thought about voting earlier and I got a mail-in ballot, but after I saw everything that was going on in the news with people’s mail-in ballots — where they weren’t getting anywhere — I just thought it would be better to do it in person,” Cannon said.

Cameron ‘Cam’ Davis, Democratic candidate for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, waited outside the Robert Crown Community Center with his family to talk to voters and show his kids “how democracy works,” but didn’t see much traffic. Davis himself voted during the early voting period, when he said lines were much longer and the weather was much colder than on Election Day. Throughout the day on Tuesday, weather remained in the 60s and sunny.

Despite the trend of short lines at most locations, some polling centers saw significant traffic. The Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, located in the 5th Ward, was busier than other polling locations around the city.

Evanston resident Eugene Dykes was at this location collecting signatures for 5th Ward aldermanic candidate Carolyn Murray. While Dykes said it was quiet in the morning, he said throughout the day the rate of voters picked up.

Christa Shavers, who helped collect signatures at Fleetwood-Jourdain for her fiance, 5th Ward aldermanic candidate Bobby Burns, said since she had arrived mid-morning, the location had been steadily busy all day. The Burns crew brought masks, pens, hand warmers and water for residents.

State Reps. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D-Glenview) and State Sen. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) also stopped by Fleetwood-Jourdain in the afternoon to talk to voters. Gong-Gershowitz said that while they had been seeing a lot of first-time voters, the quietness of polling locations indicated the importance of early voting and mail-in ballots in this election. As of Nov. 2, 11,218 votes were cast at the Civic Center, Evanston’s early voting location.

“Today we’re out because we’re hoping for change,” Gong-Gershowitz said. She later added, “The sky is blue — let’s hope the map is blue tonight, too.”

Earlier in the day, there was confusion about whether or not people could vote at the Civic Center for day-of voting. Kimberly Richardson, deputy city manager, was at the site and said the last day to drop off ballots at this location was yesterday. She said today the site was only open for staff, and was exclusively an early-voting location.

After being turned away from both the Civic Center and the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center this morning when trying to drop off her mail-in ballot, Amie Connor said she was directed to go to the Skokie Courthouse. Some voters who showed up to the Civic Center to vote and drop off mail-in ballots, like resident Mary Rubino, expressed frustration with what they saw as a miscommunication from the city. Rubino said the city’s communication was disorganized, calling the city “a joke.”

“The city of Evanston gives us news for everything,” Rubino said. “They even gave us instructions on how to trick or treat. Why didn’t they give us information about mail-in ballots?”

The bottom line for voters who showed on Election Day, resident Phebe Tinker said, is that they “want to make their vote count.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @delaneygnelson

Email: [email protected] 

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