Chicago Voters Wait Nine Hours to Cast Ballots

Same-day registration -- a first for Illinois -- provides new snag to electoral process

Pause for a moment and ask yourself this legitimate question: How long would you wait in line to exercise your right to vote?

Would you give it an hour? Two hours? Would it matter to you if races were being called and speeches were being given, and you were still in a queue for your ballot?

"The vote's important," Decorda McGee said after walking out of the North Side's Welles Park polling station after 3 a.m. "Being a politics junkie, I see all the voter suppression stuff going on around the country and I think it's very important that we vote."

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After nine hours, McGee was the last in a long line to cast his vote at the polling station at West Sunnyside and North Lincoln Avenues. The site was just one of five across the city where voters could register and receive a provisional ballot in one visit.

Same-day registration is new for Illinois, passed this summer by Gov. Pat Quinn in an effort to make it easier for people to take part in the process. Those who hadn't previously registered but had lived in their precincts for at least 30 days before the election could bring two forms of ID, one of which included their current address. Provisional ballots are set aside and counted only after the voter's eligibility has been authenticated.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said Wednesday morning that there were about 7,500 provisional ballots and about 30,000 mail-in ballots that needed to be processed.

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McGee, a Democrat, said he'd tried to previously register but unique characters in his address made it difficult. Undeterred, he went to Welles Park after 6 p.m. to take part in the process.

Phillip Brownlee was there, too, and expressed frustration with the slow-moving line. He said there were too few election staffers to handle the demand and problems with voting machines.

"Obviously this backfired in a major way for many people today," he said while leaving Welles Park after midnight.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped by at one point during the evening to talk to those waiting and to help distribute pizza and snacks and water. Still, many of the races, including the gubernatorial race between Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner, were called as prospective voters waited late into the night.

"We heard that Rauner did the speech and Quinn didn't give a concession speech, and that really pumped us up to stay," said McGee. "I'm like, 'Nah, it's too close to back out. He's not giving up, so we're not going to give up. It was important."

Illinois Election Night in Photos

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