Tales from Those at the Polls on March 17
t is not easy
to hold an election during a pandemic with new equipment when so many election judges, understandably concerned about the coronavirus, failed to show up. Last minute changes or losses of polling place locations, as well as judges, kept election authorities scrambling in the days leading up to the election, as well as on election day itself. That made it all the more difficult to get the support needed for those election judges who did serve.
League members who responded to the LWVCC’s request for information about their experience as voters or election judges on March 17
had a variety of experiences, ranging from positive (almost normal) to very negative (problems with equipment
and the lack of supplies like hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes to protect the judges and voters, among other issues).
We heard from
23 people in six Leagues in suburban Cook County,
where elections are run by the Cook County Clerk’s office,
and 16 respondents in Chicago,
where the elections are under the authority of the Chicago Board of Elections
Suburban and Chicago precincts were using the same new equipment.
Sadly, despite the high number of people taking advantage of Early Voting and Mail-in Voting, the overall turnout ended up being low:
RegisteredVoters Turnout Percentage
Chicago 1,524,598 575,985 37.8%
Suburbs 1,570,127 460,573 29.33%
State-wide turnout results have not been posted by the Illinois Board of Elections yet, but they will likely show that a minority of registered voters determined who will be on the ballot in November.
As Thomas Jefferson foresaw:
“We do not have government by the majority.
We have a government by the majority who participate.”
But in this case, those who wanted to vote on election day were understandably reluctant to participate.
Hopefully, election authorities throughout the state are already looking at what steps need to be taken to achieve a better turnout for November, whether or not the potential “second wave” of the coronavirus is with us.
The League, too, has a vital role to play to help improve turnout in the future. Everyone: Start thinking about what we can do to ensure we have a government by the majority!
-- Pris Mims