Democrats across the country are watching Illinois as the race for U.S. Senate between Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk comes to an end tonight. A win by Giannoulias would likely mean a continued majority for Democrats in the U.S. Senate.
The Drudge Report has listed incomplete exit polling results from
Illinois' U.S. Senate race. According to the conservative website, U.S.
Rep. Mark Kirk is holding a six point lead over State Treasurer Alexi
These numbers should be taken with a heavy grain of salt, as Nate Silver explains here.
A little before 1:30 p.m., Karen Johnson and Laterra Barnett (at left and right in the photo, respectively) emerged from the polling place at Williams Elementary, a school at 27th and Dearborn in Chicago, having just cast their ballots. Barnett, who lives in the Dearborn Homes, the public housing development adjacent to Williams, voted a straight Democratic ticket. She noted GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady had discussed lowering the state's minimum wage. "He wants to stop that $8.25," she said. Barnett had been encouraging neighbors to vote and worrying about turnout today. "This is just as major as the presidential," Barnett said. By early afternoon today, the Williams Elementary polling place had seen just 23 registered voters show up to cast a ballot, according to an election judge watching the process unfold inside of the school's tidy gymnasium. "Rush hour hasn't come yet," the judge said.
Things were moving a bit faster over at the polling place at Mollison Elementary at 44th and King Drive -- 116 people had cast ballots by approximately 2 p.m., an election judge said, and a few people were still finishing their ballots. With President Barack Obama's home literally just a couple of miles away in Hyde Park, it's no surprise that voters at Mollison were thinking of Obama this afternoon. Felicia Daniels, for example, said she voted for U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias because, "For one, my president loves him."
A little further south, the 4th Ward Democratic headquarters was busy with volunteers picking up door knocking lists for specific precincts and phone banking in a narrow, second floor office. The 4th Ward is Cook County Board President candidate Toni Preckwinkle's home base -- she's represented the district since 1991 -- and a joint effort between her ward organization, her county-wide campaign, and SEIU (whose state council sponsors this website) is meant to leave no registered voter's door unknocked. Preckwinkle's GOTV director David Hatch said "strong turnout areas" on the city's South and West Sides and in the South Suburbs would also be targeted. Here's Hatch talking about today's push:
The estimated results of turnout today will start rolling in shortly. As we noted in the post below, the state elections board expects 53 percent of registered voters in Chicago and
Cook County to participate in this year's elections. With the 5 p.m., post-work hour drawing nearer, whether or not a rush of voters shows up at polling stations in Chicago and suburban Cook is what many progressives will be looking for.
An interview with a younger Latino voter outside of Yates Elementary School on Chicago's Northwest Side this morning illustrated one of the big issues motivating the Latino community to the polls this year: immigration reform, or the lack of it. Marchello Calixta, pictured at the right, said he wanted to cast a ballot today specifically for Congressman Luis Gutierrez (4th District), who has championed comprehensive immigration reform legislation on Capitol Hill, and Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, who Calixta hopes will help get an immigration reform bill passed in the Senate.
"They know what issues are big here in Illinois. One of them is immigration," he said about the state treasurer's campaign. Calixta, 30, is of Puerto Rican descent, meaning that his family is not ensnared by the legal limbo of having an undocumented status. But he still feels solidarity with immigrants who are. "They're still our brothers," he says. "We have to look out for them."
In Illinois, an estimated 10 percent of the registered electorate two years ago were "New American voters" -- immigrants or the children of immigrants. It's a big voting bloc that's looking for leadership on immigration reform in Washington, and that may drive up turnout here and in other races around the country. Recent polling data
from the pollster Latino Decisions shows that the number of Latino voters (both immigrant and native born)
enthusiastic about the midterms jumped in the last weeks of October. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, meanwhile, plans to mobilize more than 133,000 immigrants to the polls today, according to a press release.
Calixta, before he left Yates, also said he was motivated to vote today for another basic reason: to back Chicago's hometown president. "The big thing is Obama and supporting him," he said. That's something Democratic candidates up and down the ticket this Election Day are hoping will make a difference for them by the time the polls close this evening.
Immigration reform advocates in Illinois are none too pleased with U.S.
Senate candidate Mark Kirk. The Republican nominee admitted again during
a debate last week that it's "not the time" to pass the DREAM Act,
which would provide upstanding undocumented children a pathway to
citizenship should they complete two years of college or military
service. Outside of his Chicago campaign office this morning, a series
of religious figures questioned why Kirk hasn't made any time to discuss
the issue with them over the past two years. "Request after request,"
says Lawrence Benito of Illinois Immigrant Action, "[and] no answer."