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updated: 2/27/2012 3:47 PM

Early voters focusing on economic issues

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  • Voters cast their ballots during early voting Monday in downtown Chicago. Illinois voters can officially head to the polls as Monday marks the start of early voting for the state's primary election.

      Voters cast their ballots during early voting Monday in downtown Chicago. Illinois voters can officially head to the polls as Monday marks the start of early voting for the state's primary election.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

URBANA -- The key issues for at least some early voters in the Illinois primary election appear to be the economy and government spending.

Howard and Joyce Wakeland were among a just a handful of voters who cast ballots Monday in Champaign County on the first day of early voting

Howard Wakeland says he's alarmed by government spending at every level from the city government in Urbana where he lives to the federal government.

The 85-year-old retired University of Illinois associate dean says the state of Illinois can afford the generous benefits it has promised workers for decades. He included his own university retirement in that assessment.

The state of Illinois has a multibillion-dollar government budget deficit that business leaders have said is contributing to a sluggish state economy.

Among those voting early in Chicago was Sergio Moreno, 35, who said education, the economy and immigration were the issues he was most concerned about. The Chicago resident -- who was born in the U.S. but has family members who are Mexican immigrants -- works the graveyard shift at a factory and attends college classes during the day.

"There are people who need help but don't get it," he said. Moreno, who's voted for both Democrats and Republicans in the past, pulled a Democratic ballot Monday. In Illinois, voters don't have to register by party but must choose a party when voting.

While he supports President Barack Obama's re-election, he said the president hasn't done enough to help immigrants and was hoping a second term would address that.

Other voters said the state's fiscal crisis was a concern for them. Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed cutting $2.7 billion from the state's approximately $14 billion Medicaid budget and he wants to reform state pensions. Illinois's backlog of unpaid bills is more than $8 billion.

Velma Wiggins, 78, is a retired teacher of the City Colleges of Chicago who pulled a Democratic ballot, as she's done for years. She said she was worried about her pension benefits and sympathized with those who rely on Medicaid for health care. She hoped state legislators would take a closer look at who any proposed cuts would affect.

"It's the future I'm looking at," she said.

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