Same-day voter turnout much higher than expected, officials say

Jim Allen, spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections explains vote processing from precincts with faulty cartridges and other issues at the Chicago Election Board Warehouse.
Jim Allen, spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections explains vote processing from precincts with faulty cartridges and other issues at the Chicago Election Board Warehouse.

By Elizabeth Atkinson

After an unprecedented night of late-night voting, officials at the Chicago Board of Elections said there was no way they could have predicted that the turnout for same-day voter registration would have been as high as it was Tuesday.

It was the first time that Chicago allowed same-day voting up to and on Election Day if voters provided two forms of identification and showed up at one of the five polling places allowing on-site registration. In July, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that changed grace period voting, early voting and absentee ballot deadlines. Prior to this election, grace period voting, which includes on-site voter registration, ended the Saturday before Election Day.

“It became very interesting yesterday because every day since Oct. 8 we had barely any usage of same day registration, and then on Election Day, boom it took off and it was bigger than the presidential election for a grace-period registration,” said Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections. “We had no reasonable way to believe that same-day registration would pop like it did yesterday. We thought we braced for it by having five sites–we were wrong.”

At the elections board headquarters at 69 W. Washington St., people who had been in line since 7:00 p.m. were still voting up until 10 p.m., three hours after the line to vote had closed. Other polling places such as the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center at 4314 S. Cottage Grove and Welles Park at 2333 W. Sunnyside were open until 11:30 p.m. and 3 a.m., respectively. At the King community center, a voter registration manager was dispatched to the site to help address the situation.

Allen said that there were more “procrastinators” voting, and voters who were wrongly directed by the judge of their precinct to same-day sites because of a flaw on their registrations. “You add it all together, and we had some people waiting, at one site, until three in the morning,” Allen said. “Bravo to those voters, that’s some true perseverance.”