Voting on first day worth the wait: ‘I feel like my life depends on it’

In West Rogers Park, Nila Hofman arrived around 8 a.m. to vote but didn’t cast her ballot until nearly 10:30 a.m. after complications with the site’s voting machines. In Bronzeville, Stephanie McRoberts arrived at her polling place at 8 a.m. yet didn’t finish voting until 1:15 p.m.

SHARE Voting on first day worth the wait: ‘I feel like my life depends on it’
Stephanie McRoberts, 61, of Bronzeville, shows her 4-year-old cousin, Taylor Jones, how to early vote in the General Election at the Dr. Martin Luther King Center Service Center in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side, Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2020. McRoberts waited nearly five hours to cast her ballot Wednesday, the first day of in-person early voting in Chicago’s 50 wards.

Stephanie McRoberts, 61, of Bronzeville, shows her 4-year-old cousin, Taylor Jones, how to early vote in the General Election at the Dr. Martin Luther King Center Service Center in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side, Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2020. McRoberts waited nearly five hours to cast her ballot Wednesday, the first day of in-person early voting in Chicago’s 50 wards.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Nila Hofman voted in her first election in 2008 after becoming a naturalized citizen, and has made it a priority to vote early and in person ever since.

This year was no different, except her typically smooth experience was complicated by the pandemic and technical problems at her West Rogers Park polling location Wednesday morning, the first day early voting sites opened in all 50 Chicago wards. A central location in the Loop opened Oct. 1

“We’re all very paranoid about voter suppression this election and the fact that it was so inefficient — this process didn’t help any of us to feel confident,” said Hofman, 59.

Early voting sites enforced social distancing and had other coronavirus protections in place, including clear plastic shields protecting poll workers and masks available for voters.

Hofman arrived at her polling place around 8 a.m., 30 minutes before doors were set to open. She didn’t cast her ballot until nearly 10:30 a.m.

For much of the morning, there were usually about 60 voters in line. The process was slowed for awhile because only two of five voting stations were working.

George Copeland, 70, of Rogers Park, votes Wednesday in the Warren Park fieldhouse in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the North Side. It was the first day of in-person early voting in Chicago’s 50 wards.

George Copeland, 70, of Rogers Park, votes Wednesday in the Warren Park fieldhouse in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the North Side. It was the first day of in-person early voting in Chicago’s 50 wards.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Hofman planned her day around voting. But she’s worried voters who work or who have children to care for will be deterred.

“I was able to stay in line because I feel like my life depends on it. There’s so much riding on this election, the possibility of losing our health care and all sorts of social, economic and political rights,” Hofman said. “But not everyone is as lucky as me that they can sit in a line for more than two hours on a Wednesday.”

Eddie Thornton, 67, and her husband John, 69, have been voting early in West Rogers Park for six presidential elections. Both believed it was important for them as Black Chicagoans to wait to vote, regardless of the pandemic.

Though she’s at higher risk for the virus, Eddie Thornton wanted her voice to be heard.

“We’ll be here as long as it takes,” she said. “This election is way too important because of all the shenanigans we’ve seen in this country the last four years. We need to get order back in this country.”

Iris Ade, 60, and Melvina Lee, 56, both from Bronzeville, wear “vote” face masks as they wait line for more than three hours to early vote in the General Election at the Dr. Martin Luther King Center Service Center in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side, Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2020. Wednesday was the first day of in-person early voting in Chicago’s 50 wards.

Iris Ade, 60, and Melvina Lee, 56, both from Bronzeville, wear “vote” face masks as they wait line for more than three hours to early vote in the General Election at the Dr. Martin Luther King Service Center in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side, Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2020. Wednesday was the first day of in-person early voting in Chicago’s 50 wards.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

In Bronzeville on the South Side, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service Center had 18 voting stations. Still, hundreds waited for up to five hours, some bringing folding chairs, while poll workers maintained coronavirus precautions.

Stephanie McRoberts, 61, owns a daycare in Bronzeville. Every election she brings some of the children to the polls.

“Voting is very important to all walks of life and to all different ages. ... That’s why I bring them here and make them look at the names on the ballot,” said McRoberts. “And we study all the names before we come here to vote, so they learn to check who they’re voting for and what they care about.”

This year McRoberts brought her 4-year-old cousin, Taylor, who helped by touching the screen for McRoberts’ choices. The two arrived at 8 a.m. and finished voting at 1:15 p.m.

Lifelong Bronzeville residents like Ola Thrower, 75, and Will Berry, 81, came by to drop off their mail-in ballots, but were encouraged by the line.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Berry, an Air Force veteran. “It has never been like this in my life. I guess people really want to kick the fool in charge out of office.”

Some voters also emphasized the importance of ensuring that Black people continue to exercise their right to vote.

Retired public school teacher Geraldine Crider, 70, stood in line more than four hours and said she do it all again if she had to.

“I thought it was very important for me to vote in person and watch the machine count my vote because we know they try to suppress the Black vote,” she said.

Hundreds early vote in the General Election at the Dr. Martin Luther King Service Center in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side, Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2020. Wednesday was the first day of in-person early voting in Chicago’s 50 wards.

Hundreds early vote in the General Election at the Dr. Martin Luther King Service Center in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side, Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2020. Wednesday was the first day of in-person early voting in Chicago’s 50 wards.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The Latest
Christopher Morel hit a home run, and Brandon Hughes struck out five Pirates in the Cubs’ 7-0 win Tuesday.
One step would be to adjust the deadline in the city’s heating ordinance to a date earlier than June 1.
Zoning Committee Chairman Tom Tunney (44th), who doubles as the casino committee chairman, said he is not at all certain that the votes are there to approve the companion agreements. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. I don’t know if we can get it done by Friday. But that’s their goal...We might need more time. That’s all I’m gonna say.”