That much discussed lack of voter enthusiasm about the 2016 presidential candidates was nowhere to be found at 69 W. Washington where 541 Chicagoans became the first to cast ballots in person.
For two hours Thursday, I stood in the pedway outside the basement polling place interviewing this especially eager group of early voters, many of them women excited for the chance to elect the nation’s first female president.
These were people such as Peggy Figliulo, 90, and her daughter, Jeanne Young, 58, of Lincoln Park, who high-fived each other in celebration after voting for Hillary Clinton.
“I’ve never seen anyone more prepared for this job. I wish I could vote in Florida, because that’s where she needs me,” said Young, who is headed there soon and won’t be back before the Nov. 8 election.
I found only one person who acknowledged voting for Donald Trump, and maybe a few others who just didn’t want to say so.
I deduce nothing from that except to remind myself we were standing in the government hub of this very Democratic city. The election is close, just not here.
That lone Trump voter, Don Ohannes of the Norwood Park neighborhood, was shocked when I told him he was the first I’d found.
“Oh, my God! This is sick, absolutely sick,” said Ohannes, 79, who couldn’t understand why anyone would vote for Clinton. “She’s untrustworthy. She’s a liar, for God’s sake.”
Ohannes, who still works as a consultant in the financial services industry, said: “Trump speaks for me. I’m angry.”
Ohannes said the people with whom he associates also like Trump, which is why he expects the election won’t even be close.
“I was under the impression that he’s just trouncing her,” he said.
Paul and Beverly Laninga, retirees from Streeterville, didn’t want to say how they’d voted, but made it pretty clear.
“I have strong views about how this country is being run, and I voted accordingly,” he said. “I think we can do better.”
“Same,” said his wife.
Pretty much everyone else I met voiced a strong negative opinion of Trump, many of them still amazed he won the Republican nomination and now is within reach of the presidency. They said they voted for Clinton.
“The stakes have never been higher,” said Victor Herrera, 43, a Chicago Public Schools employee from Rogers Park who cited Trump’s insults to the Latino community. Herrera noted that his Mexican-American mother will be among many older Hispanic residents voting this year for the first time in hopes of defeating Trump.
Lori Henmueller, 48, of Dunning, said she thought Trump’s candidacy “was a joke when it started out.”
“Every time he speaks I can’t understand why he has such a following,” she said.
“It’s a little terrifying,” said Laura Lawson, 31, of Ukrainian Village after voting with her partner, Annie Myers, 28.
“This is what happens when you underestimate a voting bloc that you don’t associate with on a daily basis,” said Myers, an attorney.
That may be the real story of this election year.
Half the country has become so estranged from the other half that we really don’t have a clue as to where the other guy is coming from any more.
That’s why Trump’s success to date surprised so many of us here in the nation’s urban centers, while others still can’t get their arms around why anyone wanted Barack Obama to be president, let alone why they would choose Clinton as his successor.
Early voting in Chicago continues at 69 W. Washington through Oct. 9, then switches Oct. 10 to a larger location at 15 W. Washington, before finally expanding Oct. 24 to 51 sites across the city.
You don’t have to tell anyone how you voted.