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Heavy turnout expected for election in city, Cook County

Early voting is underway across Illinois. The primary election is March 20. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

The line was so long outside a downtown voting site that a local restaurant began handing out free falafel samples.

Sofia Valdivia, 23, got in line about 11 a.m. to cast her vote at the 15 W. Washington site. She was still waiting 45 minutes later, and she had another 60 or so people ahead of her.

“Mostly, I was just trying to beat the early traffic for tomorrow and I just think it’s really important to get my vote out there,” said Valdivia, who lives in Lake View. “I’d rather try to wait in line today and vote in case something happened tomorrow.”

Valdivia’s was a common refrain Monday on what was turning out to be a very busy early voting day in the city and Cook County.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said officials are bracing for a heavy turnout on Tuesday. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times
Cook County Clerk David Orr said officials are bracing for a heavy turnout on Tuesday. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

“We’re breaking records up and down,” said Cook County Clerk David Orr. “We’re expecting big turnouts.”

Orr noted that as of Sunday afternoon, some 315,875 people had chosen to vote early, compared with 228,695 during the 2012 presidential election. Orr predicted another 30,000 to 40,000 early voters by day’s end.

On the city side, 284,506 people had chosen to vote early as of Sunday, compared with 243,148 people in 2012, official said.

Given the expected heavy turnout, officials were urging voters to double check the location of their polling locations, look over a sample ballot — and to vote early if they have the opportunity.

“I would hope that a lot more will come out today because election day is going to be an extremely busy day,” said Marisel Hernandez, the city’s election board chairwoman.

Aidan Fitzpatrick, 29, of Uptown, was on the same page as Hernandez.

“I’m downtown, I’m at work,” said Fitzpatrick, who works at the Art Institute of Chicago, explaining why she chose to vote Monday. “I have a feeling it’s going to be really, really busy tomorrow.”