Evanston voters brave the rain to cast ballots in municipal election


Kimberly Espinosa/Daily Senior Staffer

Voters came to the polls Tuesday despite heavy thunderstorms and hail.

Residents sprinted from the parking lot into Robert Crown Community Center to cast their votes Tuesday, using books to shield themselves from golf-ball-sized hail and torrential rain. Despite a severe thunderstorm warning, voters across Evanston still came to the polls, many saying the tangible impact of local elections brought them out.

“I think it’s really important to be engaged in local politics as well as just local happenings,” resident Dalton Long said. “How else are we going to go ahead and have our voice heard?” 

Tuesday’s consolidated election saw incumbents Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) and Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) win their aldermanic races in the 2nd and 9th Wards. Mirah Anti, Monique Parsons, Liz Rolewicz and Leah Piekarz earned posts on the Evanston Township High School District 202 Board of Education. Mya Wilkins, Sergio Hernandez Jr., and Omar Salem will fill the three open seats on the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 board.

Even with only City Council and Board of Education races on the ticket, voters said the importance of the local races motivated them to brave the rainstorm.

School boards attracted much of voters’ attention on Tuesday, with 2nd Ward aldermanic candidate Darlene Cannon crediting those citywide races for driving much of the turnout. Final turnout for the 2nd and 9th Ward races was 20.84% and 23.03%, respectively. School board election turnout stood at 17.16%. 

“There is a significant race happening: the school boards!” voter Murphy Monroe said. “Nothing is more important than what goes on in the classroom.”

ETHS parent Berry Gustafson said he has kids in the school’s special education program and cares about having advocates for students with disabilities on the board. Administrators, he said, haven’t been accessible enough to families of disabled students.

Despite these issues bringing voters to the polls, the rainy weather and school spring breaks coinciding with Election Day may have led to lower turnout, said former Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd). 

Some Evanston residents said the contentiousness of the 2nd Ward race surprised them.  

Emily Guthrie, a former alderperson and poll watcher during this election, said she was surprised at how “nasty” the 2nd Ward race became throughout the campaign season. She pointed to the presence of campaign donation controversies in the election and Mayor Daniel Biss’ endorsements of incumbent council candidates.

Another voter, Chris Lysy, said local elections like this one are particularly important because of the smaller scale of the races.

“In smaller elections, the individual voter has more of an impact than the bigger, more publicized ones,” said Lysy, who said he’s been trying to learn more about local politics since moving to Evanston in 2021.

Although all ballot options were local, Evanston voter Juneitha Shambee said she saw her decisions as bigger than that.

Shambee said she was interested in determining how reparations for Black residents proceed. A national audience, she said, is watching that Evanston program as a blueprint.

“Local decisions can be heard on a national level,” Shambee said. “People can emulate our decisions.”

Voters weren’t the only ones who braved the conditions. Candidates, and sometimes their families, huddled in the rain outside polling locations, making their final pitches to residents.

Parsons, a current District 202 board member who won reelection, said she didn’t want her mother to sit out in the cold. But her mother came anyway, determined not to miss her daughter’s third election bid.

The moment offered Parsons a chance to reflect on her first two terms.

“Campaigning is a reckoning,” she said. “Now, I have to face the people I was making decisions for.”

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