Early voting gets under way in Chicago

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Early voting in all 50 wards began Monday for the Chicago mayoral and aldermanic runoff elections. | AP file photo

The early voting slow train crawled into the Loop Tuesday — almost two weeks late — before making an unscheduled stop Wednesday for the expected frigid weather.

“It’s probably one of the most exciting elections we’re going to see,” said Marisel Hernandez, chair of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, doing her best to drum up interest as temperatures hovered near zero Tuesday. “With 14 mayoral candidates — two of which may go to a runoff — every vote counts. The difference between them may be razor thin.”

Early voting was supposed to start Jan. 17 under a new state law that requires a 40-day period for people to vote prior to Election Day. But city election officials have said that would be unrealistic because of hearings to see who would appear on the ballot.

Election Day is Feb. 26. Votes are being cast for aldermen, city clerk and city treasurer. But the main event is the race to replace Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Early voting at the Loop Super Site, 175 W. Washington St., runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The traditional 15-day early voting period begins Feb. 11, expanding into all of the city’s 50 wards.

The Loop site will be closed Wednesday because of the plunging temperatures, Hernandez said.

“We will let you know as soon as we can about Thursday,” Hernandez said.

Jerry Boyle, a downtown lawyer, said he came in because of the “huge stakes” — although he wouldn’t disclose his pick for mayor.

“I’ve been waiting for it to open,” said Boyle, 62, who lives in the Pilsen neighborhood. “I guess the explanation is I’m South Side Irish, and we vote compulsively.”

Charlotte Damron, 70, of Lincoln Park, is headed out of town for an extended break from the Midwest and the cold. She said she was concerned about the reliability of voting absentee from the West Coast.

“The election of the next mayor of Chicago is crucial in my mind. So I didn’t want to miss that opportunity to make sure I voted,” said Damron, who chose Lori Lightfoot because “she’s not part of the machine.”

Zoraida Marin, 49, who lives in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, had a number of things on her mind when she made the decision to vote Tuesday.

“I wanted to do it in case of the weather or if something goes wrong or there’s no time,” she said. “What about if I’m busy? I’m a tax preparer and this is a real busy time for me.”

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