Early vote kickoff spotlights voter confusion in new Illinois congressional districts

In-person early voting starts May 26 in Chicago; June 1 for suburban Cook residents; and on Thursday for voters in Lake, DuPage, Will, Kane counties and other parts of Illinois.

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1st Congressional District candidate Nykea Pippion McGriff in a portion of a text message urging an early vote for the June 28 primary.

1st Congressional District candidate Nykea Pippion McGriff in a portion of a text message urging an early vote for the June 28 primary.

Text provided by Nykea Pippion McGriff campaign

The kickoff of early voting for the June 28 Illinois primary is spotlighting some voter confusion in redrawn Chicago area congressional districts as candidates scramble to lock in their votes.

Ald. Gil Villegas (36th) is running for Congress in the newly created 3rd Congressional District, where there is no incumbent. When his canvassers knocked on doors, they found some folks insisting he was running against Democrats, Rep. Sean Casten or Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi.

“We just educate them” and say “you’re in a new district now,” said Villegas, whose main competition in the June 28 Democratic primary is state Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Chicago — not Casten or Krishnamoorthi.

Still, “some will argue,” Villegas said, convinced only when shown an interactive map on an iPhone. “We open it up to their street level and show them, this is your home, you’re in a new district.”

In the 1st Congressional District, the confusion factor is different. “You’d be surprised how many people don’t know Bobby Rush isn’t running again,” said Ron Holmes, an adviser for state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, one of 17 Democrats in the primary to replace Rush, who is retiring after 15 terms.

While in-person early voting is for every race on the ballot, there are particular challenges for congressional contenders because some voters, under the remap following the 2020 census, are still unaware of their new political address.

Early in-person voting at-a-glance: In-person early voting starts May 26 for Chicago voters and June 1 for suburban Cook residents in the combined City Hall/County Building in the Loop, with satellite locations opening up in June in the city and Cook County suburbs.

Starting Thursday, Lake County voters can vote at the courthouse in Waukegan; in DuPage County at the fairgrounds in Wheaton; in Will County at the courthouse in Joliet; in Kane County at the clerk’s office in Geneva or the Aurora satellite office.

1st District: With a crowded field, candidates have different early vote strategies, depending on how far along they are in identifying “their voters.”

It makes no sense for a campaign to deliver an early — or any — vote for a rival.

“The idea you would encourage people to vote without knowing who they are voting for is political malpractice,” said Holmes. Supporters such as state Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Chicago, are using their political operations to help get out the early vote for Collins.

Clem Balanoff, an adviser for Jonathan Jackson, the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said they are using dozens of pastors backing Jackson to mobilize from their pulpits an early vote “souls to the polls” drive.

On Thursday, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) is releasing a video running on social media platforms targeted to voters in counties starting early voting. “Vote Now,” said the video aimed at Will County voters. Dowell is “ready to deliver on day one.”

Nykea Pippion McGriff has a series of text messages rolling out. On a text to be released on Thursday, using a picture of herself and her son, she explains she is “running to replace” Rush, and “today is a big day for two reasons: early voting starts and my son, Artie, is voting for the first time. I’m reaching out because you’re a likely voter…”

Jonathan Swain “is launching an early vote and vote by mail phone bank campaign to reach our target voters throughout the district this weekend,” said spokesperson Becky Carroll.

With early voting starting, Karin Norington-Reaves launched her paid communications plan on Wednesday while “we have field teams knocking on doors daily,” said spokesperson Samantha Keitt.

3rd District: Ramirez said turning out the early vote is “really important,” with her campaign putting a priority on door knocking in “high voter turnout areas” and doing phone banking “making sure that people know early voting is, in fact, happening.”

Said Villegas, “We’re still educating voters there is an actual primary that’s going to take place June 28, let alone that we’re going to start voting early this week.”

6th District: Incumbent Reps. Marie Newman and Casten are battling each other in a district that includes turf grafted from their current districts — and others.

Newman started running her first paid ad — about her decision to have an abortion at age 19 — on cable channels Tuesday.

Her campaign manager, Nick Uniejewski, said, “anticipating that there would be confusion due to the congressional remap, our volunteers have been talking to prospective voters for the last few months at their doors, on the phone and by text, encouraging supporters to utilize early vote and vote by mail options ahead of the June 28th primary.”

Casten spokesperson Jacob Vurpillat said this week, “The focus of our organizing team is mainly shifting from persuasion to turning out voters, people who we have identified” as Casten supporters.

As for redistricting confusion, Casten canvassers have knocked on doors only to be told, Vurpillat said, “My congressman is Mike Quigley.”

That’s right for now — but won’t be after 2022.


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