School Board races take center stage ahead of election day as early votes are cast


Illustration by Emily Lichty

Residents voted early at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center in Evanston’s 2023 election.

Cole Reynolds, Assistant City Editor

As a small but consistent stream of voters headed into the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center on Monday, most had their minds on the bottom of the ballot. Though two aldermanic races top the ticket, the school board elections for Evanston/Skokie District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202 attracted the attention of early voters.

Monday marked the start of the second week of early voting ahead of Evanston’s April 4 election day. Residents of the 2nd and 9th wards will elect their alderpeople while D65 and D202 stakeholders will each fill three seats on their respective school boards.

This election comes as local school boards turn into battlegrounds for the strategies of national politicians. “The path to save the nation is very simple; it’s going to go through the school boards,” former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon declared on his podcast in 2021.

Politicians have since tried to shape school curriculums to align with their political platforms. Most notably, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis introduced sweeping legislation to remove teaching materials that include LGBTQ+ characters or detail systemic injustices to Black Americans. 

These national headlines were on the minds of some Evanston voters as they headed to the polls.

“I don’t want to go by way of Florida,” Evanston voter Eileen Halperin said of the school board elections.

Julie Drew, a retired D65 teacher, said she is typically invested in Evanston school board elections. Drew characterized school boards and administrators as often being “micromanagers” who are regularly on the opposite sides of issues than teachers. 

As elected officials have wrested more control over curricula in other cities, Drew said she was concerned similar developments would find their way to Evanston.

“I don’t want anyone banning books,” she said. “I can’t believe I live in a country where this kind of thing happens.”

Election judge Marc Abramson described early voting turnout as a “steady stream.” Voters are casting roughly 100 ballots a day during early voting, according to election judges, totaling 1,374 votes by the close of Wednesday’s polls. 

The second week of early voting saw a modest uptick in turnout, said Neal Weingarden, a volunteer for the Democratic Party of Evanston. The increase was an encouraging sign for Weingarden and other organizers who say early voting has increased significance this cycle. 

“Election day falls over (D65 and D202) spring break this year,” said Stacey Cloud, who campaigned for candidates outside of Monday’s polling location. “So, early voting is even more important this year.”

Weingarden said residents who usually vote early made no exception this cycle.

Evanston residents understand that school board elections matter, he said.

“When Steve Bannon says things like ‘we’re going to take our cities from the school boards up,’ I think people really pay attention to that,” Weingarden said. 

How To Cast A Ballot

Residents, including Northwestern students, who are registered to vote can cast early ballots until April 3 at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. Early voting hours include the following:

March 30-31: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

April 1: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

April 2: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

April 3: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Registered voters can also vote by mail using a driver’s license or state ID number and Social Security number. The last day to request mail-in ballots is Thursday, March 30 and all absentee ballots must be postmarked by election day to be counted.

Voters can cast ballots at their assigned polling location on election day, April 4. There are 25 polling places in Evanston and voters can find their specific location using Cook County’s voter information tool

Though online voter registration closed on March 19, Illinois voters can also register as they cast an in-person ballot, including on Election Day. If a voter chooses to register on Election Day, it must be done at their home precinct. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charcole27

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