Early voting starts with a bang in Cook County
For 13,585 Cook County residents Monday, voting early proved more important than voting quickly.
Heavy demand and an extraordinarily long ballot caused lines with waits of 45 minutes or longer at many polling places in the Northwest suburbs and elsewhere on the first day of early voting.
The busiest of the suburban polling places was Orland Township Hall in Orland Park with 932 voters by 5 p.m. Arlington Heights village hall came in second place with 655.
On the first day of early voting in 2008, 7,733 voted. The 75 percent increase in the number of first-day ballots cast may partly reflect the reduced window of opportunity, as there are 13 days for early voting this year, down from 18 days four years ago, said Courtney Greve, a spokeswoman for Cook County Clerk David Orr's office.
Despite the long lines Monday, there were no reports of technical issues, Greve said.
The clerk's office said the length of the ballot was the issue in the long wait times, not too few touchscreens. Because of the number of races this year -- especially the list of judges up for election or retention -- most people needed nearly 10 minutes to cast their ballots, Greve said.
Regular employees at some of the Northwest suburban polling places said Monday's crowds were made up of people dedicated to voting early and getting it out of the way.
"As far as I can tell, it's just extraordinarily heavy demand," said Stephanie Sarnoff, executive director of the Schaumburg Township District Library, which is hosting an early polling location.
The library provided additional employee support and chairs for the crowds that appeared Monday.
"People appear to be very patient," Sarnoff said. "We always have a huge turnout for the presidential election."
Streamwood Village Manager Gary O'Rourke said more than 200 people had voted at his village hall by 3 p.m. Monday. He saw it as a significant turnout for the first day, but anticipated that crowds would be a bit lower from now on until the last day.
The early voting period this year stretches until Nov. 3, the Saturday before the election. This is closer to Election Day, Nov. 6, than in previous years, Greve said.
Suburban voters are able to use any of 44 early voting locations or the clerk's office itself at 69 W. Washington in Chicago. Chicago residents are able to use any of 51 sites.