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All Eyes On Illinois As Voters Head To The Polls (LIVE BLOG)

It's Election Day and Illinois voters are braving tough weather to get to the polls to cast their ballots. Today's election is garnering national attention as voters in the 2nd congressional district work towards electing a replacement for the disgraced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. 

It's Election Day and Illinois voters are braving tough weather to get to the polls to cast their ballots. Today's election is garnering national attention as voters in the 2nd congressional district work towards electing a replacement for the disgraced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. 

Progress Illinois has reporters in the field and will provide you with updates and stories covering the battle for the 2nd congressional district seat as well as other races, like the highly-contentious one in Cicero for town president. Check back often for the latest.

UPDATE 1 (11:25 a.m.): PI's Ellyn Fortino caught up with Debbie Halvorson, one of the 18 candidates running for the 2nd congressional district seat, as she cast her vote at the Steger Community Center.

"We're seeing that the turnout has been great. We're hoping that people will go out and vote as soon as they can and we'll see what happens," she told us.

Here's more from Halvorson about the importance of today's election:

Weather is expected to be a factor in voter turnout today as the Chicagoland area is expected to see up to six inches of snowfall today. By 9:00 this morning, 90 people had voted at Steger Community Center, Crete precincts 03 and 04. 

UPDATE 2 (11:40 a.m.): Things are slow going at one Calumet City polling place, according to PI's Steven Ross Johnson. At Downey Park, located at 300 Jeffrey St. in Calumet City, a little more than 100 ballots were cast by 11:15 a.m.

Polling places opened at 6:00 a.m. and will be open until 7:00 p.m. at most polling places for todays elections.

UPDATE 3 (12:23 p.m.): PI's Ashlee Rezin visited two polling places on Chicago's far South Side this morning and found that voters feel apathetic and disenfranchised when it comes to the 2nd congressional district race.

Such hard feelings have resulted in empty polling places and low voter turnout at those polling places thus far. Read her full report here.

UPDATE 4 (12:56 p.m.): Former State Rep. Robin Kelly met with potential voters at an IHOP in Matteson, saying "you should vote today, even if it's not for me."

"I wish it was 80 degrees and sunny, but it's not," Kelly told PI's Ashlee Rezin. "But we do live in the Chicagoland area, so it's not like people haven't been around snow and driven in the snow."

"It's a special election, that dictates more of a low voter turnout more than anything else," she added. 

UPDATE 5 (1:17 P.M.): We caught up with Halvorson and some Steger voters this morning at the town's community center, where the candidate cast her ballot.

Voter turnout looked promising there and both the candidate and residents had a lot to say about the influence of Michael Bloomberg's Independence USA ads on the race. 

UPDATE 6 (1:32 p.m.): Apathy is the word of the day in the 2nd congressional district race. I asked one Flossmoor resident if she was voting in today's election.

"Doubt it," she responded. "If I do, it would be for Robin Kelly. They're all shady as far as I am concerned."  

UPDATE 7 (1:59 p.m.): It's slow going at the St. Mark's Catholic Church polling place in Harvey, Illinois. 

There are two Thorton Township precincts there and the voter turnout numbers are abysmal as the snow starts to come down furiously in the Chicagoland area. 

As of 1:30 p.m., just 36 out of 868 registered voters had cast a ballot in precinct 104. In precinct 36, a mere 23 of 1,000 voters had placed their vote, reports PI's Bob Skolnik.  

UPDATE 8 (2:12 p.m.): Voter turnout is slow at Flossmoor Community Church, which serves precincts 1 and 50 in Bloom Township.

As of 1:30 p.m., 79 voters had cast ballots in precinct 1. Officials in precinct 50 say there's been a lack of turnout, but did not offer specifics on numbers.

Sharon Perry, a Flossmoor resident, said it was her obligation to vote today after casting her ballot, reports Ellyn Fortino. 

When asked about Jesse Jackson Jr., Perry said, "It's unfortunate. I think he had a bright future in front of him."

In regards to the candidates running to replace him, Perry said a lot of the campaigning did not reflect the issues of concern for all of the residents in the district.

"I've heard some of the candidates just briefly talk about taking a stand against violence. I don't know that we see as much of that in the south suburbs, but certainly in the city," she said. "Education is very critical and I think those who live here probably don't feel that as much beacuse the school systems are pretty good right here in this area."

"You just want your candidate to be in there, to do a good job, to do whatever they do with integrity," Perry added.

UPDATE 9 (2:25 p.m.): PI's Steven Ross Johnson caught up with Chicago Ald. and 2nd congressional district candidate Anthony Beale today as he cast his ballot. 

Speaking to reporters, Beale send if elected his main focus will be toward  addressing the lack of jobs within the district, which he contended has been the cause for many of the other problems plaguing the community for years.

“We all know that the economy is bad because we don’t have enough jobs, the foreclosure problem is high because we don’t have jobs, crime is high because we don’t have jobs,” Beale said. “So if we send a job creator to Washington, which I have a proven track record of doing, then we can create jobs in order to turn our community around and give our kids another option other than just hanging out on the street.”

UPDATE 10 (2:39 p.m.): In Kelly's home town of Matteson, as of 2 p.m. 124 out of 640 registered voters cast their ballots at Maple Brook Club House, which is in precinct 19 in Rich Township.

Poll workers are not optimistic that the numbers will rise much though, as they say majority of the residents in the retirement community will not venture out to battle the snowstorm.

UPDATE 11 (3:50 p.m.): Vorter turnout was low this afternoon at Winston Churchill School in Homewood, which covers four precincts, according to reporter Ellyn Fortino.

As of 2:15 p.m., 97 people had voted in precinct 19, while 49 had cast ballots in precinct 34.  In precinct 30, 91 voters showed up at the polls and just 79 people voted in precinct 48.

Election judge and Homewood resident Rob McMamany said so far there's been no electioneers talking to voters or passing out literature outside the school. This is unusual, he said. (He's worked the last six elections in Homewood.)

In previous elections, "The judges would have to be kind of vigilant to make sure people weren't giving buttons out when they came in, but this time...there's just been none of that at all."

"This is definitely dead," he said about the turnout.

UPDATE 12 (4:05 p.m.): Dwain Whitted was one of the few voters to come to vote at St. Mark's Baptist Church in Harvey on a snowy afternoon, reports PI's Bob Skolnik. Whitted voted for Robin Kelly in the Democratic primary to fill the 2nd Congressional District seat left open when Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned in November.

"I'm familiar with her, familiar with the name," said Whitted when asked why he voted for Kelly.

Whitted said he was leaning toward Kelly once State Senator Donne Trotter dropped out of the race, adding that television commericals supporting Kelly helped reinforce his leanings.

"That made a wee bit of difference," Whitted said. "I was already familiar with her, but I think the TV ads kind of brought it home."

UPDATE 13 (4:36 p.m.): In an attempt to create jobs in the area, Candidate Beale says, if elected, he would push for the third airport that Jesse Jackson Jr. challenged while in office. Click through for a full report on what the 9th ward Chicago alderman had to say while at his polling place today.

UPDATE 14 (4:48 p.m.): Turnout was very light at the Hazelcrest Church polling place in Hazel Crest, according to PI's Bob Skolnik. By 3:00 p.m. less than 10 percent of registered voters had cast a ballot; just 92 out of 1199 voters had braved the weather to come in and vote.

Election Judge George Curry blamed the low turnout on a variety of factors.

"Horrible weather, negative advertising, disgust with previous politicians," Curry lamented.

UPDATE 15 (4:53 p.m.): A polling place in Chicago Height has caught on fire and is closed, according to Cook County Cleark David Orr's office. Here's an update from Orr:

A polling place in Chicago Heights is closed due to a nearby fire. The fire broke out at 3 p.m. in a building across the street from precinct 46 at the Golden Towers Senior City, 1706 East End Ave. The fire department has blocked several streets surrounding the fire.

Voters in Precinct 46 may now vote at Precinct 6, Lincoln School, 1520 Center Ave., Chicago Heights. The election judges and Golden Tower residents were evacuated by the fire department due to smoke damage.

UPDATE 16 (4:59 p.m.): "Cicero has been known for its corruption since Al Capone settled-in in the 1920s," Dick Simpson, professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a former Chicago alderman, told PI's Ashlee Rezin. “Under the current town president, that kind of outright corruption hasn’t been shown, but there has been considerable nepotism and this election has seen many allegations of improper election activities.”

Larry Dominick, the incumbent in the race for town president, has accused challenger Juan Ochoa of having gang members work for his political organization, according to CBS News. Ochoa denies the allegations. Meanwhile, Ochoa told the Chicago Tribune that Dominick is using the town's police for his own use in the race. 

UPDATE 17 (6:34 p.m.): There's less than a half hour left in voting in today's election. Check out our report with our meet up with Robin Kelly on the campaign trail earlier today. 

UPDATE 18 (7:02 p.m.): Polling places have closed in today's elections. In Homewood, low expectations for voter turnout were even lower than anticipated at Winston Churchill School. See our full report here.

UPDATE 19 (7:23 p.m.): Voters in Calumet City say gun control was a key decider in their vote today. See our full report here.

UPDATE 20 (7:41 p.m.): A half hour after polls closed, Robin Kelly supporters began to gather at the Matteson Holiday Inn to watch as the election results come in, reports PI's Ashlee Rezin.

UPDATE 21 (8:05 p.m.): The Democrats 2nd congressional district race has been called for Robin Kelly, with 55 percent of the vote thus far to Debbie Halvorson's 20 percent. Halvorson has called to concede to Kelly. 

UPDATE 22 (8:11 p.m.): Debbie Halvorson is making her concession speech after calling to concede to Robin Kelly and Anthony Beale.

"Tonight's about rallying around Robin and its about we're Democrats," said Halvorson. "And that's what I want to encorage all of you. To make sure that we, all my friends, all my relatives, all my volunteers, we make sure as we leave this room today weare all with Robin.

"Because we've all been through alot and like good Democrats we're all family and we fight a lot, but at the end of the day we have to move on because things are better than us. And thats why its important that as we move forward, because there's another election it's April 9th, we've got to move on because we've been without representation for a long time and its not just since November the two weeks after the election. Its been a long time. Not since June when he took a leave of absence, it's been longer than that. And that's why I ran in the primary, because I knew we needed something, we could do better."   

UPDATE 23 (8:22 p.m.): Larry Dominick has been re-elected as town president in Cicero, with the incumbent garnering 61 percent of the vote to Juan Ochoa's 30 percent. Check out our full report on the race here.

UPDATE 24 (8:30 p.m.): Political groups are beginning to congratulate Kelly on her win. Emily's List President Stephanie Schriock released the following statement in response to her win:

Robin Kelly is a tough leader who has spent her career in public service fighting for women’s rights and opportunities. And I’m thrilled that women and families in Illinois will have such an experienced progressive champion on their side. Robin has already run an incredible campaign, and I know that she’s well on her way to making history by becoming the 75th Democratic woman to join the 113th Congress.

CREDO Super PAC says Kelly's early and decisive win sends a message to politicans when it comes to gun control and cozying up to the National Rifle Association.

“Debbie Halvorson didn’t just lose. She was crushed at the polls by voters who want the NRA to get out of the way while Congress addresses gun violence,” said Becky Bond, President of CREDO Super PAC. “Debbie Halvorson’s A+ rating from the NRA is what torpedoed her front-runner status. This election should serve as a warning to all candidates and elected leaders who vote with the NRA instead of their constituents — you will be held accountable by the voters come Election Day.”

UPDATE 25 (8:36 p.m.): The mood is lighthearted and celebratory as supporters watch results come in at Robin Kelly's election night viewing party.

Kelly is expected to come down and make a victory speech at 9 p.m.

UPDATE 26 (9:01 p.m.): Amidst accusations of voter intimidation, including broken home windows and threats of deportation by Dominick's campaign, Juan Ochoa makes his concession speech in the race for Cicero Town President, adding that "This is really not the end. We're going to continue this moving forward. ... We're gonna fight again. We're gonna move our community forward. We can't give up. You know, the cause is right. Our heart is in the right place and we will change Cicero."

UPDATE 27 (9:06 p.m.): Robin Kelly makes victory speech and opens with an attack on the NRA, telling her supporters "You sent a message that was heard around our state and across the nation--- A message that tells the NRA that their days of holding our country hostage are coming to an end. And their days of scaring Congress into submission on gun control are coming to a close."

UPDATE 28 (9:33 p.m.): Republican Dr. Eric Wallace, the most conservative GOP candidate running in the 2nd congressional district is leading the race's front runner Paul McKinley by just 37 votes. The race is too close to call.

UPDATE 29 (9:37 p.m.): With all precints reporting, voter turnout was at 32.7 percent in today's election in Cicero, according to the Cook County Clerk's office.

UPDATE 30 (9:41 p.m.): McKinley is leading Wallace, but the race is still too close to call. 

UPDATE 31 (10:08 p.m.): For the second time in less than a year, Democratic candidate Debbie Halvorson lost the chance to win Jesse Jackson Jr.’s former 2nd congressional district seat in today’s special election primary. Nonetheless, she called for unity in concession speech, although she did lament the $2.3 million spent on campaign ads in the race. See our full report here.

UPDATE 32 (10:58 p.m.): With more than half of the district's 545 precincts reporting, Kelly won the special primary with 54 percent of the vote, report's PI's Ashlee Rezin.

“We will keep standing with our president,” Kelly said during her victory speech to a reception of cheers and applause. “We will keep raising our voices. We will fight to ban assault weapons, to close the gun show loophole and to ban high capacity magazine clips.”

Kelly took the podium with tears in her eyes, surrounded by her family, Chicagoland parents who held up pictures of children they’ve lost to gun violence, and political supporters such as Ald. Deborah Graham (29th), State Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor), and former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

“We will do whatever it takes to end this epidemic of gun violence, once and for all.” Check back soon for our full report from Kelly's election night festivities.

UPDATE 33 (12:13 a.m.): Former State Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson has won the Illinois 2nd Congressional District's primary election Tuesday to become the Democratic nominee in the race to fill the seat left vacant by disgraced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Check out our full report on her win and election night festivities.

That's it for us tonight folks! We are signing off for the night.

Image: AP Photo/Seth Perlman

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