Will Tuesday produce record voter turnouts?

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Cook County Clerk David Orr in September 2015 | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Elections officials providing an update noted several things Monday morning: voters switching party allegiance to jam up rival party results so far is not a problem, record numbers of early ballots have been cast and — because of early voters — lines at polling places Tuesday shouldn’t be too bad.

Will Tuesday produce record high turnouts?

Chicago’s primary record was 53 percent voter turnout in February of 2008, when then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama faced Hillary Clinton.

For comparison’s sake, there was 42 percent voter turnout in Chicago when Mayor Rahm Emanuel faced Chuy Garcia in a run off in April of last year.

“It may be somewhere in between the 42 and 53 percent,” Chicago Board of Elections Chairwoman Marisel A. Hernandez said Monday at a news conference held in the Loop.

“I hope it’s more,” she said.

About 102,000 early votes had been cast as of Sunday in suburban Cook County, more than doubling the nearly 52,000 voters who set the previous primary high water mark in Obama’s first primary election in 2008.

In Chicago, as of Sunday, about 130,000 early votes had been tallied. Similarly, the number shatters the city’s previous primary record of 81,000, also set during Obama’s first primary.

About 10 percent of the city’s 1.5 million registered voters have already cast ballots.

“We don’t expect long lines because so many people are voting before election day” said Cook County Clerk David Orr, who suggested voters get to the polls between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Orr said that switching parties to affect a rival party’s primary results hasn’t been a problem, largely because anyone who would do that would sacrifice the ability to vote in other key primary races.

“Anybody can switch if they want,” Orr said. “There’s always talk about it. Frankly it’s not as common because people want to vote for other candidates.”

In Cook County, 71 percent of ballots cast so far have been from Democrats and 29 percent have come from Republicans. “That’s fairly normal, those numbers,” Orr said.

A spokesman for Orr’s office also noted that there is no such thing as a hybrid ballot in which a voter can vote for candidates from both parties.

Without mentioning Donald Trump or the chaos of his canceled rally Friday in Chicago, Orr said he was concerned how violence might effect the general elections in November.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a race quite this contested in both parties,” Orr said.

“I worry about what November may be like with some of the things we’ve seen,” Orr said. “We all know that there’s been political rallies and so fourth that have gotten a little bit ugly recently.”

Complications already arise enough due to election equipment, “dealing with battling hooliganism and so forth,” would create further, unneeded problems, Orr said.

No police officers will be stationed at polling places Tuesday, Hernandez said.

But the city’s election board will have at least 500 investigators to look into problems or shenanigans as they happen.

On Tuesday, voters can call “election central” with questions or concerns at (312) 269-7870.

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