Hundreds of suburbanites vote early as more polling sites open
Bearing with cold, drizzly weather, suburban voters spent as little as a few minutes and up to a couple of hours waiting outside municipal buildings, libraries, courthouses and community centers to cast ballots on the first day of expanded early voting across the region Monday.
Early pandemic fears prompted many to consider voting by mail the safest option. But many others said they are choosing to vote early in person because they don't trust mail-in ballots will arrive on time, and still others just want to avoid long lines and crowded polling places on Election Day.
Suburban voters already have cast more than 266,000 early or mail-in ballots ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Often with large crowds and long wait times, early voting began Sept. 24 at limited locations in the collar counties and Oct. 7 in suburban Cook County. Dozens of additional sites opened Monday.
At polling places in Arlington Heights, Elgin, Glenview and Naperville, voters adhered to 6-foot social distancing and other safety measures, including wearing masks and frequent hand sanitizing.
Bob Goldberg of Glenview said he decided to go against the popular wisdom of avoiding the first day of early voting. The entire process, including the round trip to Glenview village hall, took him about an hour and 15 minutes, he said.
"As a 90-year-old, I felt very comfortable," Goldberg said. "The line moved very efficiently. Everyone was friendly. I have voted early ever since they started voting early, because I can pick the time I would like to go. This was among the quickest that I have been in and out in many years."
The line outside the Islamic Center of Naperville began forming shortly after 7 a.m., and people moved swiftly in and out, casting ballots within a few minutes.
"In the first few hours, we already had 150 individuals who came and voted," said Kashif Fakhruddin, president of the center, which is serving as a polling site for the first time for the Muslim and larger Naperville community.
Joe Moran of Arlington Heights waited about two hours Monday to cast his ballot at village hall along with dozens of other residents.
"I had seen early voting in other states. It just seemed (there was) quite a bit of engagement this year," said Moran, 62. "It's just an opportunity to take care of it and not have to worry about it as we get closer to the actual day.
"There is obviously the concern with people about COVID-19 and how that would affect their actual in-person voting," Moran said. "The village hall did a good job of making sure everybody was protected and everybody had what they needed. The most important thing is to get out there and vote."
Stephanie Belk of South Elgin said initially she was confident about voting by mail, but reports of ballots being invalidated and Black voters being suppressed swayed her decision. It took her about 40 minutes Monday to vote at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin.
"You hear all these stories about votes being lost and intentionally misplaced. I didn't want it to be a factor for me," said Belk, 39, an African American. "I figured it was probably best to do it in person. If criminal justice reform is something that is important to you, your vote in this election should be very clear. It's just a continuing issue. ... While it's on the forefront of everyone's minds, we should not lose the momentum."
Nationwide reports of some mail-in ballots being disqualified and concerns over voter suppression prompted Arlington Heights seniors Marilyn and Jack Nadulek to vote early.
"We would have waited two weeks outside in a snowstorm to make sure our votes counted," Marilyn Nadulek said. "We usually just do it on Election Day. This is the most important election of our lives. For there to be fair and honest elections, everyone should have the ability to vote."