Big turnout at polls in Naperville area
Sun Staff November 6, 2012 11:12AM
Brent Fisher, 5, watches and waits for his mother, Colette from Naperville to vote at the Cress Creek Country Club in Naperville on Election day on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 8, 2012 6:29AM
Naperville residents flocked to the polls Tuesday to vote in an election that had a big impact nationally and right here at home.
Voters had a chance to weigh in on contests for president, Congress, the Illinois General Assembly and many county posts. In some areas, they were being asked for their opinions about how many elected offices one person can hold at one time, and whether there should be limits on political donations given by corporations, unions and other organizations.
Bob Saar, executive director of the DuPage County Election Commission, said turnout on Tuesday was more than 70 percent of registered voters.
“We were expecting somewhere between 74 and 77 percent,” which was the participation level in 2008, Saar said. “Probably right now I feel more confident of the 74 rather than the 77.”
Judges reported heavy turnouts when the polling places opened at 6 a.m., and a steady flow through the morning, he said.
By early Monday afternoon, the commission had counted 99,452 people having taken advantage of early voting and absentee ballot alternatives. Several thousand more came in after the Oct. 9 registration deadline to take part in grace period voting, where constituents register and vote at the same time. That could have eased things up for those casting ballots Tuesday.
“Because we’ve got over 100,000 people who turned out before the polls opened this morning, and because we got over 4,000 people that came through and did the grace period voting, you’ve got 4,000 less people showing up and leaving disappointed because they weren’t registered and couldn’t vote,” Saar said Tuesday.
He was surprised, he said, when his visits to numerous polling places Tuesday turned up few glitches. The biggest one had been a report early in the morning of apparent ballot woes at Longwood Elementary School in northwest Naperville. It triggered memories of last spring’s primary, when thousands of paper ballots were too large to fit into the voting machines.
“I got a cold (feeling) up the back of my neck,” Saar said. “Did we have ballots too wide again?”
As it turned out, the optical scanning device had not been allowed to sufficiently warm up before it was put into use.
“For as much as we do diagnostic testing and regular ballot testing on these things ... there’s a certain number of them that you turn them on in the morning, and they don’t jump to life,” he said.
In Will County — where 52,674 voters put their choices on the record before Tuesday by voting early, mailing in or personally delivering absentee ballots, or tapping the grace period option — election officials were burning up the phone lines most of the day Tuesday. Although information had been provided in mailings and on County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots’ website, most callers were unsure where to go to vote.
“Everybody waits till the last minute,” Voots said. “They think they’re driving down the road and they can just pull in and vote.”
A few complaints had come in about electioneering, but those issues were resolved easily, Voots said, and all of the polling places were able to open on time with sufficient teams of judges on hand.
Voots said the turnout was good Tuesday, according to what election judges throughout Will County told her.
“They just keep saying it’s very busy, but it’s always that way with a presidential election.”
By late afternoon, Saar and his associates had heard about two dozen complaints, mostly involving clashes between election judges and poll watchers. They repeatedly addressed the right of voters to access the balloting sites without hindrance, and the right of poll watchers to witness signature verifications and other indicators of legal voting procedures.
“The tone of the day is the friction between all of those things coalescing at one time. And some of the campaigns have poll watchers that are not going to be cowed into standing in a corner, and they shouldn’t,” Saar said. “There’s always some of this in past elections. You have the redrawn districts, and you have campaigns bringing in their poll watchers that may have served in other counties. Some of these poll watchers admit that this is their first time, but they’re attorneys and they understand the law.
“It’s been a balancing act all day on that, and certainly every election you take away something and you think what it is be need to emphasize better.”
He also spent a portion of the day familiarizing judges with recent changes to the laws governing polling places, such as a requirement that forbids electioneering within 100 feet of the doorway into a voting room, rather than the exterior of the building as was the rule in the past.
Overall, a more “hands-on” approach training provided for judges appears to help the process go smoothly.
“I think it paid off,” Saar said.
Keep checking back to www.napersun.com for updates on the election.