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Illinois’ 2020 primary election sets up big races for November

Voters braved emergency conditions to hit the polls Tuesday amid a global pandemic that has had a dramatic impact on the election process. We followed every twist and turn in our Election Day live blog.

John Davis, a polling judge volunteer, sanitizes an electronic voting machine screen amid concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus at a polling place in Bronzeville on Tuesday.
Charles Rex Abrogast/AP

Chicagoans faced coronavirus, missing poll judges and closed precincts in order to vote in the 2020 primary election — but at least there wasn’t any snow.

Here’s what happened throughout the day as voters braved a global pandemic in order to cast their votes.

11:45 p.m. Illinois’ 2020 primary leaves lots of votes yet to be counted

Chicagoans braced for the threat of coronavirus and plenty of mishaps at polling places to vote in the 2020 primary election — an election with at least two tight races that could be affected by what could be more than a quarter of a million ballots yet to be counted.

Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen late Tuesday said 200,000 early voting ballots had yet to be counted, and a “potential universe” of another 70,000 mail-in ballots could arrive to be counted in the next two weeks.

“We’re going to be counting for another two weeks, easily,” Allen said.

Rachel Hinton, Jon Seidel and Tina Sfondeles have a full report.

11:23 p.m. Marie Newman declares victory over U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, but he says ‘still votes to be counted’

It was the second time in two years that Marie Newman found herself within a few thousand votes of unseating Rep. Dan Lipinski in the hotly contested 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary.

But in the rematch of their electoral slugfest Tuesday night, it was Newman who was on top with 95% of precincts reporting.

Newman held nearly 48% of the vote over Lipinski’s almost 44%, putting the LaGrange challenger closer to toppling a south suburban political dynasty that dates back nearly four decades.

It was enough for Newman to declare victory over the eight-term incumbent.

Read the full report here.

11:10 p.m. Oberweis wins chance to take on Underwood in 14th Congressional District, Ives to square off with Casten in 6th

State Sen. Jim Oberweis declared victory over six other Republicans in the 14th Congressional District on Tuesday, preparing to square off against freshman Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood this fall in a typically red district that historically flipped blue in 2018.

In the west suburban 6th Congressional District GOP race — the other Chicago-area congressional seat that also turned Democratic in 2018 — former gubernatorial candidate and army veteran Jeanne Ives defeated surgeon and army reserve colonel Gordon “Jay” Kinzler, with 71% of the vote to 29% of the vote with about 69% of precincts reporting.

Jake Wittich and Lauren FitzPatrick have more on these congressional races. Read the full report here.

9:48 p.m. Biden burns Sanders in chaotic Illinois primary — winning by 23 percentage points

Former Vice President Joe Biden tightened his grip on the Democratic presidential nomination by defeating Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Illinois with the help of African-American voters, women and voters over 45.

Biden led Sanders with 59.1% to 36.1% with 69% of the precincts reporting.

It was an unprecedented Election Day in Illinois — with delayed results, missing election judges, dwindling supplies of hand sanitizer and bickering over whether the state should even hold its primary during a global health pandemic.

Tina Sfondeles has more on Biden’s win. Read her full report here.

9:20 p.m. Neo-Nazi sees little support in latest congressional bid

The Illinois Republican Party is poised to avoid another embarrassment in the race for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District seat.

Mike Fricilone, a member of the Will County Board who had the backing of the state GOP, took an early lead Tuesday night ahead of his two rivals: Catherine O’Shea, an insurance broker from Oak Lawn, and Arthur Jones, a retired insurance who is also a Holocaust denier, white supremacist and neo-Nazi.

Sam Charles has more on this race. Read his full report here.

9:00 p.m. Kim Foxx takes early lead in state’s attorney race

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx took an early lead over her three Democratic challengers Tuesday night, after months of swatting away criticism for her handling of the Jussie Smollett case.

Foxx had 46% of the vote with about 56% of precincts reporting. Former prosecutor Bill Conway, who poured millions of dollars of his father’s money into his bid to oust Foxx, was in second place with 34% of the vote. Gambling lobbyist Donna More, who ran against Foxx for the seat in 2016, had around 15% of the vote while former 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti had 5%.

Rachel Hinton, Tom Schuba and Neal Earley are following this race. Keep up with the full story here.

8:10 p.m. Marie Newman’s campaign manager ‘feeling really good’ as polls close

In the 3rd Congressional district, Marie Newman is looking to unseat longtime incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski, who she lost to by just 2,145 votes last time.

Campaign manager Ben Hardin said the campaign was “feeling really good” shortly after the majority of polls closed at 7 p.m., but with some suburban polling stations staying open late, the campaign was still trying to get voters to show up with 20 minutes left.

Hardin called the last few days of the campaign “a whirlwind” as it has tried to navigate the quickly changing nature of the race due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A campaign video posted Tuesday afternoon on Facebook showed Newman working the phones to reach voters and encourage them to cast a ballot.

“We’re here in the age of a pandemic,” Newman tells the camera about going virtual since Friday. “This is how we get this done grassroots-wise.”

— Matthew Hendrickson

7 p.m. As polls close, stay updated with our live results

Though some precincts will remain open an extra hour, most polls are closed now and live results will start coming in momentarily.

Follow along as we bring you live results for every race.

6:26 p.m. At John Hay Elementary, man wears gas mask to vote

A man wearing a gas mask voted in the 37th ward today at John Hay Elementary Community Academy, 1018 N. Laramie, according to election judges Rod James, 40, of Austin, and Shalandre Lacy, 24, of the West Side.

“A full gas mask,” said James, who was working at the school this evening.

“He pulled it up (so he could see) to vote and then I saw him walking down the street with it,’’ Lacy said.

Election judge Rod James said he saw a man wearing a gas mask to vote at John Hay Elementary Community Academy.
Maureen O’Donnell/Sun-Times

— Maureen O’Donnell

6:02 p.m. Rogers Park polling site has seen only 186 people so far

Pressure Billiards, in Rogers Park, a polling site for the 37th precinct, saw a trickle of people all day.

The site at 6318 N. Clark St. opened at 6:30 a.m., but only 186 people had come to cast their vote by 5 p.m., said volunteer Kathleen Dulkoski.

“I’ve seen it maybe this slow during off years, like during a governor’s race, but never during a presidential election,” said Dulkoski, 30, of West Ridge, who has served as an election judge for 13 years.

“But it’s been a crazy day all around. None of the election judges showed up. We were supposed to have five, but I was the only one. And we were supposed to be able to get in here and set up by 5 a.m., but no one was here to let us in,” Dulkoski said.

Pressure Billiards, in Rogers Park, a polling site for the 37th precinct, saw a trickle of people all day.
Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

“I called the Board of Elections, and they sent an investigator. We eventually got open at 6:30. When no judges showed up, I started calling people and got responses like one woman who said ‘I’m 69. I can’t take the chance,’” she said.

“Eventually, one of the judges showed up, and around 5 p.m., a guy from the neighborhood came by asking if we needed help, so now we have three judges to get through the evening, but the turnout has been so slow it doesn’t really matter.”

Dulkoski said she wore a mask all day. Volunteers had been told that polling sites would provide hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, but only the hand sanitizer was provided.

“I was glad I brought my own wipes and mask,” Dulkoski said.

— Maudlyne Ihejirika

5:40 p.m. Boomers highest turnout percentage so far in Cook County

As of 3 p.m., 119,169 voters were counted so far in Cook County, the Cook County Clerk’s Office said. Boomers are the highest turnout percentage so far, with 41.5% of all voters being of that generation. Gen Xers made up 25% of today’s voters.

By gender:
54% Women
46% Men

By age:
17-29 years old - Just over 13% of voters today so far
30-39 - 9.9%
40-49 - 13%
50-59 - 20%
60-69 - 23%
70-79 15%
80+ 6%

So far today, 64% of the voters are over 50 years old, 44% are over 60 years old and 21 percent of voters are 70 years old or older.

By hour:
6-7 a.m.: 5,910
7-8 a.m.: 8,465
8-9 a.m.: 10,019
9-10 a.m.: 12,129
10-11 a.m.: 14,891
11 a.m.-Noon: 16,122
Noon – 1 p.m.: 15,938
1-2 p.m.: 16,475
2-3 p.m.: 16,339

4:52 p.m. 40 suburban precincts to remain open late

Because of polling place changes and late openings, the Cook County Clerk’s office will keep 40 suburban precincts open an extra hour this evening, to 8 p.m.

Visit the Cook County Clerk’s website to see if your polling place is on the list.

4:35 p.m. Low turnout ‘beyond anything I’ve ever seen,’ says election judge of 20 years

It was another ghost town at Napleton Northwestern Chrysler in West Ridge, the polling site for the 15th and 39th precincts.

By 3:30 p.m., only 86 of the 900 registered voters outstanding in the 15th precinct had come through the car dealership, 5950 N. Western Ave., to vote, said volunteer Joyce Wall.

Joyce Wall said the low voter turnout is beyond anything she’s ever seen.
Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

“That’s extremely low. All primaries are slow, but this is beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” said Wall, 60, who has been serving as an election judge for 20 years.

“Here, it’s been a lot of older people we’ve seen coming out, and they haven’t seemed phased, no masks or anything. I’m just hoping people come out later, maybe in the evening.”

Outside the voting site, a campaign sign for Yehiel “Mark’ Kalisz, candidate for 16th District state representative, stood out among many others.

Under his photo: “Why We’re Not Here: Normally, we’d love to be out here talking with you as you go in to vote. But your health and safety and that if our team is our top priority ... If you have any question about Yehiel ‘Mark’ Kalisz or his platform before you vote, please feel free to call our campaign office.”

A campaign sign for Yehiel “Mark’ Kalisz, a candidate for 16th District state representative.
Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

Nancy Torres, 33, of West Ridge, was shocked at how empty it was when she came to cast her vote at 3:30 p.m. She herself was unphased.

“I guess the coronavirus is keeping people away, but I guess I’m just not that worried. I can’t let it stop me from doing anything I have to do,” said Torres.

— Maudlyne Ihejirika

3:49 p.m. On South Side, 80-year-old woman visits three polling sites before being able to vote

Several polling places across the city’s South Side were closed abruptly, with little notice or directions to alternate voting sites, which made the task of casting a ballot one that required a car, and plenty of time.

Jennelle Cottage, 80, started out for her usual polling place, a nursing home a few blocks from her home in Washington Heights around 9 a.m., only to be told that the voting site was closed.

She went home for several hours, until a friend told her she could vote at Marcus Garvey Elementary School, but when she arrived there around 2 p.m., poll workers told her voting machines from her precinct had not been delivered.

From Garvey, she set out for the Woodson Library Branch, where she joined some three dozen people waiting in a small auditorium, and spent another 30 minutes waiting to be taken into a small office to fill out her ballot.

Jennelle Cottage, 80, waits to vote at an early-voting station inside the Carter G. Woodson Library in Washington Heights on Chicago’s South Side, the third polling place Cottage visited Tuesday.
Andy Grimm/Sun-Times

The runaround was like nothing she’d seen, and Cottage said she hadn’t missed a chance to vote since she cast her first ballot in 1960.

“I take voting seriously, alright,” Cottage said as she waited for her ballot a little after 3 p.m. “I don’t know how they managed to screw this up.”

Others at Woodson simply gave up.

“They want us to sit in a room with 50 people, when the government is telling us not to be with groups of more than 10 people, and they want us to just sit around together for an hour?” said Robert Reddrick, 54, as he walked out of the library after surveying the scene in the auditorium. “I have to be concerned about my health. I don’t blame anybody, it’s just poor planning. They should have postponed the election, to give people more time to figure out where to go, or vote by mail.”

— Andy Grimm

3:29 p.m. Some voters wear masks, gloves to protect themselves from the coronavirus

At the Midwest Terrace senior apartments at 150 S. Campbell, Nikolette Baxter, 30, and her son Jeremy, 2, donned protective masks when they approached the voting machines at the senior complex, where votes were tallied for the 50th precinct of the 27th ward.

Nikolette Baxter, 30, and son Jeremy, 2, both of the West Side, masked up when Baxter came to vote at Midwest Terrace senior apartments at 150 S. Campbell, which handled voting for the 50th precinct in the 27th ward.
Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

And at Phoenix military academy, set up for voters from the 17th precinct in the 27th ward, one voter gave some election judges pause with a look that resembled the Invisible Man. The judges said the voter wore a white mask covering the entire face, sunglasses and gloves.

“It was scary,” one judge said.

Another corrected: “It was a girl.”

By about 2 p.m., election judges said only 12 voters had arrived at another polling place inside Phoenix military academy at 145 S. Campbell, this one for the 30th precinct in the 28th ward.

However, people watched a toilet paper delivery to the school with interest, said election judge Addie Spruill.

With all the demand for toilet paper, Spruill said, “I was teasing the driver he was taking a chance bringing that in.”

— Maureen O’Donnell

2:55 p.m. Streeterville polling site a ‘ghost town’: volunteers

In the Streeterville neighborhood, the polling site for the 2nd, 13th and 18th precincts was a ghost town in the early afternoon.

Volunteers said the site, 808 N. Lake Shore Dr., had been that way since morning.

Aimee Mendez, 28, of Streeterville, cast her vote around 1 p.m. and was surprised to find no lunchtime crowd.

“It’s super empty, no lines at all, and didn’t have to worry about being in a crowd,” said Mendez, who brought plenty of disinfectant wipes with her and wiped down everything she touched, as well as her hands and phone after.

“It’s good in that I got in and out, but bad in that I’m sure a lot of people have stayed away,” said the photographer, who works from home, even before the pandemic cleared out offices.

Aimee Mendez, 28, of Streeterville, cast her vote around 1 p.m. at the 2nd Ward polling site at Lake Shore Park, 808 N. Lake Shore Dr., and was surprised to find no lunchtime crowd.
Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

Angie Chin, 68, of Streeterville, visited the polling site around 2 p.m. to cast her vote. The retiree saw no need for extra precautions.

“I just live a block away, and was traveling a very short distance, and this area is not crowded at all, so I saw no need for a mask or anything like that,” she said.

“It’s clearly going to be a low turnout, because there was no one in there, and I know for certain there will be fewer elderly voting, which could affect some candidates’ constituency,” she said.

“As for me, I’m staying home from anything else. We usually travel a lot, but have cancelled all trips and travel through the end of the year.”

— Maudlyne Ihejirika

2:20 p.m. Jim Allen responds to Pritzker team after public postponement fight

On a 9:30 a.m. phone call with reporters Tuesday, Chicago Election Board Spokesman Jim Allen said the board had asked Gov. Pritzker to postpone the primary, but said that recommendation was “rejected.” Pritzker’s camp fired back, on Twitter and then in an official statement.

“This is a lie,” Pritzker’s Chief of Staff Anne Caprara tweeted at 10:21 a.m. “And frankly, given what we are dealing with in this moment, I’m disgusted that Jim Allen would lie like this.”

Allen responded to the governor’s office’s statement early Tuesday afternoon:

“I’m not going to get in a back-and-forth with another individual,” Allen said. “I did express some concerns for all involved. Our staff and our poll workers are in a very difficult situation. So I’m not going to call anybody names or anything like that.

“We know what was said in that meeting and they know what was said in that meeting, so I’m going to leave it at that. I’m not going to take that chum.”

Mitch Dudek

1:38 p.m. Total votes cast Tuesday morning less than half of 2016 primary totals

Through 1 p.m., 126,499 votes were cast at city polling places in Chicago, according to Chicago Election Board Spokesman Jim Allen.

By comparison, four years ago on primary election day, by midday there were about 300,000 votes cast at city polling places.

1:17 p.m Official and unofficial reports continue to suggest low in-person voting

Turnout Tuesday at the precinct inside Bridgeport’s Hamburg Athletic Club was the lowest election judge Margaret Goggin had seen in her 40 years working at the polling site, with fewer than 60 people casting ballots by noon.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Goggin, who hasn’t missed a single election in the last four decades. “I guess a lot of [voters] are doing early voting.”

That was the case for Jennifer Smith, 44, who walked past the Hamburg polling site on her way to get coffee. Smith said she early voted on Friday, fearing that the coronavirus would disrupt the election, and the longtime South Sider was eager to cast a ballot in the hard-fought election between Dan Lipinski and Marie Newman for the 3rd District seat in the U.S. Congress.

Working at home, Smith said she had seen many friends on social media searching for ways to vote without going to the polls.

“Everything seems so uncertain, I just wanted to make sure I got to vote,” she said. “There are a lot of people on my social media, who are older or who have older relatives, who are really concerned about [coronavirus], and they’re saying they’re not going to vote.”

Andy Grimm

Andy Grimm/Sun-Times
Poll worker Rob Buscemi checks registration information on a tablet computer inside the Hamburg Athletic Club in Bridgeport. Poll workers reported fewer than 60 people had voted as of noon, an exceptionally low total.

And an update on recorded voter totals from the Cook County Clerk’s Office: As of noon Tuesday, 68,428 voter were counted so far in suburban Cook County.

By sex:
52% Women
48% Men

By hour:
6-7 a.m.: 5,910
7-8 a.m.: 8,465
8-9 a.m.: 10,019
9-10 a.m.: 12,129
10-11 a.m.: 14,891
11 a.m.-Noon: 16,122

68% of the voters so far today are over 50 years old. 47% are over 60 years old. 22% of voters so far today are 70 years old or older.

By age:
17-29 years old - Just over 9% of voters today so far
30-39 - 9.7%
40-49 - 13%
50-59 - 21%
60-69 - 25%
70-79 16%
80+ 6%

More than 80% of voters in suburban Cook County have taken Democratic ballots.

12:39 p.m. Scenes from the polls

There were no masks and no fear of coronavirus at one West Side polling place Tuesday morning.

But there also were no lines.

The stream of voters was steady but few at Revival Fellowship Church of God, 2810 W. Washington.

And instead of shaking hands, judges and voters laughed and tapped elbows.

Everyone at the polling place — in the 39th precinct of the 27th ward — applauded first-time voter Jaden Carter, 18, a student at Clemente high school. “I just really want to vote for Bernie Sanders,” he said.

Jaden’s mother, Felicia Carter, 59, an election judge, said the Board of Elections sent one bottle of hand sanitizer. The workers knew they’d need more and they supplied the rest. Voters “are taking advantage of hand sanitizer,” she said. “No handshakes.”

“We keep wiping down the doors,” said another judge, Laverne Armstrong, 61, of the 400 block of North Hamlin.

Photo of masked poll watchers Victoria Reese and Darnell Conley outside Cather School.
Maureen O’Donnell/Sun-Times

The number of voters also was down at Cather School, 2908 W. Washington Blvd., where some election judges wore masks. By 11 a.m., a time when normally about 75 voters would have filed through, only 40 had come in, said election judge Sabrina Cherry, 49, of West Town.

The number of elderly voters — who in past elections might arrive big groups on buses — was way down, said poll watchers Victoria Reese, 51, and Darnell Conley, 49, both of Maywood. Both wore masks.

When Reese and Conley talked with people outside Cather School — the site for voters in the fourth precinct of the 27th ward and the 49th precinct of the 27th ward — many of the voters stood way back. Conversations, Reese said, were “long-distance.”

“Some of them don’t even want to take the [campaign] literature because of the coronavirus,” Conley said.

Maureen O’Donnell

Gerard Moorer campaign volunteers Jay Bellinger (left) and Herbert Matthews hold up protective gloves they brought to the polls for their own protection. They said most voters are bringing gloves, masks, or both.
Maureen O’Donnell/Sun-Times

12:02 p.m. Didn’t receive your vote-by-mail ballot? Time to hit the polls

Before Tuesday, the city processed 117,813 total applications for vote by mail ballots which is an “all time record” for the city’s electoral board. Twenty thousand of those applications came in on the final day when the city extended its Thursday deadline to midnight.

Mail-in ballots must be postmarked on Tuesday for the vote to count, or they can be hand-delivered to the Chicago Election Board, at 69 W Washington, Sixth Floor, by 7 p.m.

If you didn’t receive your vote by mail ballot in time, you need to go vote in person today. At your assigned voting site, you’ll need to request a Form 1 affidavit to and check that you never received your ballot. If records indicate that you did receive your ballot, but you haven’t yet voted, you can ask to cast a provisional ballot.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners website has more information.

11:48 a.m. Preliminary voter report - suburban Cook County

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, whose office is overseeing polling places in the suburbs, offered a glimpse at Tuesday morning voting numbers.

As of about 10 a.m., 36,523 voters today in suburban Cook County. More women have voted than men, and young voters age 17-29 have hit the polls so far in small numbers.

While it’s early, and voting numbers appear to be climbing by hour at the sites surveyed, turnout among voters above age 60 — the age group most urgently advised to self-quarantine due to coronavirus risks — appears to be steady in this small sample group.

By sex:
51.4% Women
48.6% Men

By hour:
6-7am: 5,9107
8am: 8,4658
9am: 10,0199
10am: 12,129

By age:
17-29 years old - Just over 7% of voters today so far
30-39 years old - 10.4%
40-49 years old - 15%
50-59 years old - 23%
60-69 years old - 26%
70-79 years old 14%
80+ years old 4.4%

On the first day of early voting, Edwin Reyes, 62, of Beverly, casts his ballot in the March 17 Illinois primary election at the new Loop super site at 191 N. Clark St., Monday morning, March 2, 2020.
On the first day of early voting, Edwin Reyes, 62, of Beverly, casts his ballot in the March 17 Illinois primary election at the new Loop super site at 191 N. Clark St., Monday morning, March 2, 2020. File photo.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

11:22 a.m. Not casting his vote was never an option

At Mt. Pigsah Missionary Baptist Church in Bronzeville, poll workers reported they had opened late and struggled throughout the day with technical difficulties, ranging from touchscreen machines not accepting cards to internet connection failures, according to a poll worker who asked not to be identified by name. Calls to city election officials for help had not been responded to as of 11 a.m., despite multiple calls to help lines that had gone unheeded since before polls opened.

Poll workers had switched to collecting paper ballots, after a vote tabulating machine also malfunctioned.

“I’m sure people, myself included, are wondering if their votes are going to be counted, because you see your ballot just go into a big box,” said Stephen Mitchell as he walked out of the polling place.

Mitchell said he came out to the polls despite concerns about coronavirus. Not casting his vote was never an option for the 47-year-old, though he opted not to bring his children, ages 7 and 5, to the polls to watch him cast his ballot.

“I take voting very seriously. I’ve voted every chance I’ve had since I came of age,” he said. “I don’t think they needed to postpone the election. Health is very important, of course, but when are they going to have the election if they don’t do it today?”

Andy Grimm

11:12 a.m. Pritzker’s office responds

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration was livid at Chicago Election Board Spokesman Jim Allen’s remarks on a 9:30 a.m. phone call with reporters Tuesday, saying while many leaders have stepped up to the plate in light of the pandemic, “there are those who have shirked their responsibility.”

(See previous update below for more on Tuesday’s phone call.)

The governor’s office said the Chicago Board of Elections held a call with the governor’s office, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon last week in which the board voiced concern about having enough election judges. The governor’s office offered up the National Guard to help staff the election and to also help with recruiting volunteers.

They said 2,000 young people from Mikva Challenge were turned away from volunteering.

“So instead of accepting help or offering any solutions of their own, The Chicago Board of Elections decided to wait until Election Day to get on a call with press and make politically charged accusations,” spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said. “The Governor cannot unilaterally cancel or delay an election. Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and we could not risk confusion and disenfranchisement in the courts.”

The governor’s office said it is not a “perfect solution” to still have an election on Tuesday.

“What’s concerning is that the board has time to play politics instead of doing their job. Instead of hosting a press call to pass on the blame for their failures, we would urge the Chicago Board of Elections to focus on ensuring our democracy can continue as uninterrupted as possible by troubleshooting the issues at the polls,” Abudayyeh said. “This administration and the Governor are focused on our critical health needs around the state today. The Chicago Board of Elections should find a way to do their job.”

Tina Sfondeles

11:02 City elections board spars with governor’s office over decision not to postpone primary

Chicago election officials say they tried to cancel in-person voting on Election Day in favor of mail-in ballots, but were told by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s legal team to proceed as planned, Chicago Election Board Spokesman Jim Allen said Tuesday during a 9:30 a.m. conference call with reporters.

“We urged an abandonment of this model,” on a March 11 phone call between election officials and Pritzker’s legal team, Allen said, but that recommendation was “rejected.” Allen said the phone call was scheduled mere hours after a global pandemic being announced by the World Health Organization.

Anne Caprara, Pritzker’s chief of staff, disputed Allen’s remarks in a tweet Tuesday morning.

“This is a lie,” Caprara tweeted at 10:21 a.m. after reports recounting the conference call were published. “And frankly, given what we are dealing with in this moment, I’m disgusted that Jim Allen would lie like this.”

“We offered them the National Guard, young volunteers and assistance with keeping polling places clean,” Caprara wrote. She said a statement from the governor’s office was forthcoming.

Allen said voter turnout was low toward the beginning of the day in Chicago.

During Tuesday’s call with reporters, Allen pointed to the governor’s recent public remarks about whether the election would be postponed: “The governor said we must all speak in one voice...We were told the election must go on.”

But in conversations between the elections board and Pritzker’s office, “we were not allowed to say anything,” Allen said.

“It was a snowball we could all see coming down the hill. Where is the mystery in this?” Allen asked.

“Other states are postponing, they don’t have scenarios where seniors are tweeting and posting comments about being fearful of going into polling places or serving on election day,” Allen said.

Despite Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio moving to postpone their presidential primary elections after declaring a state of emergency due to the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday that he didn’t see that as an option for Illinois.

“There’s nothing magical about March 17 unless you’re Saint Patrick,” Allen said.

A spokeswoman for Pritzker did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Mitch Dudek and Lizzie Schiffman Tufano

10:31 a.m. ‘Please be patient, prepared and start thinking about how you’ll vote again’

Don Bell, who has served as an election judge for more than 30 years, was one of the many poll workers who resigned Monday in light of COVID-19 precautions.

Bell was set to judge at the Sheil Park polling station in Lake View.

Don Bell, a retired college administrator and gay activist, at Town Hall Apartments, Chicago’s first LGBTQ-friendly senior living facility.
Don Bell, a retired college administrator and gay activist, at Town Hall Apartments, Chicago’s first LGBTQ-friendly senior living facility, where he lives.
Jake Wittich/Sun-Times

“This is the most important election of my life, but I have to follow advisories for people 70 and up with my conditions,” said Bell, who is 71.

Bell said election judging is a tradition for his South Side family. His mother was an election judge, he said, who passed down the “value of patriotism and participation in democracy” to him and his brother.

“Elections are an especially big deal to African American families like mine. It’s a sign of being a full-fledged citizen,” Bell said. “My grandfather, who moved to Chicago before the turn of the 20th century, really stressed that to us.”

Bell said Chicago, like many cities, was short election judges already, before the COVID-19 outbreak. He said most polling don’t have the typical five election judges.

He encouraged people — especially youth — to recognize the importance of voting Tuesday, but to be patient as polling places adjust to the circumstances.

“Our elections really depend on older people at polling stations because we’ve got the time, interests and motivation,” Bell said. “Please be patient, prepared and start thinking about how you’ll vote again in the Fall.”

Jake Wittich

10:17 a.m. Shortages of judges, sanitizing products continue across voting sites

Voters and election judges continue to report shortages of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and other cleaning materials at polling places in the Chicago suburbs.

“That may take some time to figure out,” said James Scalzitti, spokesman for Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough. “I know that there was a scheduled 6 a.m. delivery to polling places today specifically with cleaning supplies and sanitizer, wipes.”

Jugs of hand sanitizer and cans of Lysol greet voters in the March 17 Illinois primary election at the new Loop super site Thursday afternoon.
Jugs of hand sanitizer and cans of Lysol greet voters in the March 17 Illinois primary election at the new Loop super site Thursday afternoon.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Jugs of hand sanitizer, Lysol spray bottles and other cleaning materials were abundant at early voting locations like the Loop super site at 191 N. Clark St. on Thursday. Illinois residents had been encouraged to vote early if possible ahead of anticipated polling place closures and judge shortages related to the fast-spreading coronavirus.

But on Election Day Tuesday, Scalzitti said his office had received “multiple reports from poll workers and voters that there have been polling places that did not have enough or any cleaning supplies,” he said. “I don’t know how many, but it hasn’t been unusual to hear this today.”

“I don’t know if they’ll be able to get these supplies to every polling place or how long it’ll take,” he said.

The Lincoln Lodge Polling Station, 1st ward, Tuesday, March 17th, 2020.
James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Mitch Dudek

9:57 a.m. Shortages of judges, sanitizing products continue across voting sites

James Scalzitti, spokesman for Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, was checking on a report from an election judge in Tinley Park who told the Sun-Times that no hand sanitizer or wipes had been provided to them. But, he added, “in all likelihood the judge is probably correct.”

“The biggest task right now is to get judges to the polling places that still need them,” Scalzitti said.

As of about 9 a.m., Scalzitti said there are still about 30 precincts (not polling places, precincts) that haven’t opened to voters.

Mitch Dudek

9:51 a.m. ‘Not enough election judges’

An election site at Village Hall in Barrington failed to open on time this morning. Instead, a hand-written sign taped to the door told voters that judges had failed to show up.

James Scalzitti, a spokesman for Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough — whose office is overseeing suburban elections — confirmed that election judges did not show up in Barrington.

“Due to the coronavirus, there were not enough election judges at this polling place this morning,” Barrington spokeswoman Patty Dowd Schmitz said.

“They were able to recruit more volunteers, and they just announced that they are now open for voting as of 9:20 a.m.”

Election officials have been scrambling since late last week to replace election judges who were dropping out in droves, citing concerns over the highly transmittable coronavirus.

Officials are urging voters to visit chicagoelections.gov to find out where to vote. Voters can also find information on their polling location by calling 312-269-7900.

Mitch Dudek

9:03 a.m. ‘I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do’

There’s no hand sanitizer or sanitary wipes at a polling place in Tinley Park, and election judges there aren’t sure how to handle the situation.

“We don’t have any wipes and the only bottle of hand sanitizer we have is from an election judge who brought one in personally,” said Laura Lukasiewicz, 41, an election judge who is stationed there.

“We’re not able to wipe off voting machines,” she said.

The polling place is at 16801 S. 80th Ave. — an administrative building in Tinley Park.

Lukasiewicz said a fellow election judge called an election-day hotline at Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough’s office to request supplies.

“We were told they don’t have any to send to us, and as far as I know they’re not going to be supplying anything or giving us any guidelines or solutions on how to take care of this,” she said.

“We’ve been telling people who ask about it,” she said of voters who inquired about the sanitation products.

“I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do actually, this is my first time doing this,” she said, adding that she plans to make it a point to tell the rest of the voters who come in about the situation.

“We’re all kind of frustrated about this, but we’re working through it, we’re doing the best we can,” she said.

Only about 10 voters had stopped by the polling place she was working at as of 8:45 a.m., but there were two other polling places in the same building for other precincts and Lukasiewicz wasn’t sure how busy they were.

“It’s contradictory to what the governor said about keeping everyone safe,” Lukasiewicz said, noting that she was a bit angry about the spot she found herself in.

Mitch Dudek

8:39 a.m. ‘No party tonight’

The state’s containment efforts against the novel coronavirus COVID-19 have not only reshaped the Election Day voting experience, they’ve also had a sizable impact on how candidates campaigned in recent weeks, and on their plans after the polls close Tuesday.

Late last week, Sun-Times reporters Tina Sfondeles and Neal Earley spoke to campaign staff about how coronavirus fears had changed get-out-the-vote efforts in the run-up to the election.

Wary voters aren’t answering doors. And they don’t want to be handed any literature.

Don’t shake hands, the Illinois Democratic Party is advising campaigns that have reached out for advice.

That means more phone calls, texts and staying out of voters’ personal space.

And fist bumps.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s race is one of the most high-profile primary campaigns this year, but incumbent Kim Foxx still canceled several events last week. A spokesperson said her campaign would instead double down on social media messaging

Foxx is forgoing the traditional Election Night party Tuesday night and will hold a media-only news conference in the South Loop instead.

Jacob Meister, a Democratic candidate for Clerk of the Circuit Court for Cook County, said that in lieu of a big party on Election Night, his campaign will have a smaller gathering in its office.

Michael Cabonargi, who is also running for Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County as a Democrat, canceled his Election Night party as well, a spokeswoman said.

Read the full report from Tina Sfondeles and Neal Earley.

7:37 a.m. The new normal: Scenes from Lincoln Lodge polling station

Voting begins in Chicago, Lincoln Lodge Polling station, 1st ward, Tuesday, March 17th, 2020. Voters waiting in line keep their distance.
James Foster/For the Sun-Times
Sharon Trask and other voters use hand sanitizer as they stand in line to vote, Lincoln Lodge Polling station, 1st ward, Tuesday, March 17th, 2020.
James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday that polling places will be clean, with hand sanitizer available, and election workers properly socially distancing themselves from voters. And he said schools still serving as polling places, in many cases, “have actually done a deep cleaning.”

The Chicago Board of Elections issued guidance on social distancing last night:

7:24 a.m. Election board asks for ‘help,’ ‘patience’ amid judge shortage

Despite Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio moving to postpone their presidential primary elections after declaring a state of emergency due to the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday that he didn’t see that as an option for Illinois.

Voting begins in Chicago, Lincoln Lodge Polling station, 1st ward, Tuesday, March 17th, 2020.
Voting begins in Chicago, Lincoln Lodge Polling station, 1st ward, Tuesday, March 17th, 2020.
James Foster/For the Sun-Times

“We have to have our elections continue, in my opinion. This is the right thing to do,” Pritzker said at a Springfield news conference. “Our democracy needs to go on. If we cancel these elections, when would you have an election?”

One of the key reasons to proceed, according to Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois electoral board, is that much of the voting has already been done. Illinois has seen 504,000 early votes cast and 294,000 mail ballots sent to voters as of Monday afternoon.

The Chicago Board of Elections has been scrambling to staff polling places following “a torrent, a tsunami” of calls Monday from election judges who’ve signed up but had to resign, Marisel Hernandez, the chair of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said.

“We need your help and, likewise, we need your patience” Hernandez said. “So if a polling place doesn’t open up at 6 a.m. when it’s supposed to, if there are people still setting up please be patient.”

Tina Sfondeles and Rachel Hinton

6:32 a.m. An unusual election

The race to the 2020 Illinois Primary has featured unprecedented twists and turns, from a field of 13 Democratic candidates that has been winnowed down to three, to a global health crisis that is dramatically reshaping Election Day.

As election officials have scrambled to contend with record-breaking early voting and vote by mail requests and to staff and relocate polling places within days of the primary, candidates pivoted to “virtual campaigning” in these crucial final days. How these factors will influence the results in Illinois remains to be seen.

6:05 a.m. Voting sites are open

Polling places opened at 6 a.m. across Chicago.

The Chicago Sun-Times Voting Guide features candidate profiles for every race as well as interviews with candidates and the Sun-Times Editorial Board’s endorsements.

It also includes a downloadable, printable palm card of our endorsements that you can bring with you into the voting booth.

Whether voters are casting their ballots remotely, at a relocated site or not at all, Illinoisans will choose candidates today in the races for presidential nominee, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and the Illinois Legislature. Local races in the Chicago area include Cook County State’s Attorney, the Illinois Supreme Court, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board of Commissioners and the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk.

Find your polling place using the Chicago Board of Elections search tool.