Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Turn-out low but steady in Purell Primary

     Election Day is an all-hands-on-deck proposition at the Sun-Times, and it felt good to be out in the field, working on a story. My instructions were to write something about the election, and my plan was to hit as many polling places as I could, then scoot back home and write it up. I was a little worried that this is too light, out-of-step with the disasters rearing up everywhere. But it reflects what I saw and learned about. 

     The shock of Tuesday’s election is how ordinary it was.
     Considering all that is going on around the March 17 statewide vote — a global viral pandemic, a stock market meltdown, schools cancelled statewide, bars and restaurants closed — Tuesday’s primary election proceeded with surprising smoothness, at least in places such as the Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln. All the judges who were supposed to show up did show up. Voters came too.
     “Aside from hand sanitizer everywhere and wiping down the pens, it’s business as usual,” said Colby Krouse, an election judge. “Lots of wipes.”
     Sure, there were problems. There always are. Reports of long waits, confusion and late openings from various locations. A major challenge was with election judges. Retirees like to pick up a little extra cash and perform a civic good by serving as judges. But the threat of the virus, which is particularly dangerous for older people, prompted more than 800 judges to bow out at the last moment.
     “I set this whole place up,” said Jim Maivald, surveying a roomful of voting stations, chairs and tables at the Lincolnwood Community Center, 4170 Morse. “Usually there are four teams.”
     Some judges overcame their fears and showed up anyway.
     “I’m very worried about it,” said Vicky Plange, speaking through a mask at the Croatian Cultural Center of Chicago, 2845 W. Devon. “But I’m taking precautions.”
     “Somebody has to do this,” added Cindy Gray-Lewis. “It’s our civic duty, to represent Chicago and Illinois.”
     Chicago, a city that has had its share of difficult and wild elections, from the one after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, to the Spanish Flu of 1918 and the Pineapple Primary of 1928, punctuated by 60 bombings. (”pineapple” was gangland slang for a hand grenade).
     Successfully conducting an election — perhaps Tuesday’s should be remembered as the Purell Primary — is not typically a source of civic pride. But managing statewide voting was more than Ohio was willing to risk — they canceled theirs, the governor overruling a court that ordered him to hold the election. Florida and Arizona also held primaries.
     Judges who dropped out in Chicago were often replaced by high school students like Noah Kern, 17, who attends North Side College Prep.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. Maybe there was a good reason to stick with holding the election yesterday, but I certainly didn't hear one from the Governor. After instituting strong measures for fighting the Corona Virus, he wimped out on postponing the election.


  2. Sheesh, his explanation was loud and clear. To quote from the speech:
    "I will not use this moment - this moment - to supersede my constitutional authority. I will not. There are people out there today who want to say "Oh, it’s a crisis. Bend the rules and overstep your authority." Let me tell you this: it is exactly in times like these when the constitutional boundaries of our democracy should be respected above all else."

    I can understand there will always be people want authoritarian leaders - history shows us that. But to look at our sad lot of executives in Washington, and the various state capitals and still have that desire strikes me as dangerously idiotic. I have no love for billionaire politicians like Pritzker but I'm relieved he made this call. I feel for anyone immiserated by having to be out there on election day, but the cost would be much higher down the road should governors get used to having the unilateral power to postpone elections.

  3. Worked the Election yesterday. 130 voters, no problem. Thankfully all judges showed up. I could see a big problem if some didn't show. I think having the Election was the correct call. We do have a virus to defeat, but we do need to address what's going on in Washington in November.

  4. College professor and hereditary Congressman Dan Lipinski didn't have a good day!


Comments are moderated, and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.