Early voting locations expanded for suburban voters at more than 45 locations across Cook County on Monday, including a new super site in the city — at Union Station.
This is the first time in its 95-year history the busy transit hub for commuters will serve as a polling location.
The Union Station site is in the Founders Room off the Great Hall; the 12 voting booths are open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., but only for suburban Cook County residents. Any Cook County voters, including Chicago residents, also can drop off mail-in ballots
Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough says the site is more convenient for thousands of daily commuters.
“Most of our voters are from the suburbs, and many of them come through this place because they’re commuters, so why not have this as somewhere they can also take care of another piece of very, very important business — voting,” Yarbrough said at Monday’s grand opening.
Amtrak, which owns the station, was approached by the clerk’s office and quickly agreed to host the site.
“The most sacred power all of us have is our right to vote. Giving commuters a convenient place to exercise this power is a public service we are excited to offer,” said Ray Lang, Amtrak’s senior director.
More than 500,000 Chicago voters have requested mail-in-ballots for the 2020 election —quadruple the all-time record. Suburban voter registration has increased 5% since the March election, with more than 1.6 million suburban Cook County residents registered, according to Yarbrough.
“These are unprecedented numbers and why we’re working around the clock,” Yarbrough said. “We’ve got to have all hands on deck this election because I cannot believe the number of ballots that we’ve received.”
About one hour after the voting location officially opened, 15 suburban voters had cast ballots at the station, and about twice that many mail-in ballots had been dropped off, according to election judges.
More than a dozen Chicago residents also showed up at the Union Station polling site, hoping to vote, and were redirected to the Loop Super Site, 191 N. Clark St., election judges said.
Evanston resident Danny Hughes, 48, dropped off his ballot to avoid long lines while on break from his job a few blocks away. He was thankful to have a site nearby, but thinks there still aren’t enough locations.
“I was shocked to go online and only see a few early voting sites close to me. I don’t know why that is. They should have sites on every corner because this election is so important,” Hughes said.
Although online voter registration ended Sunday night, voters still can register and vote in person at early voting sites or at their polling place on Election Day.