In the morning hours of today’s primary election for Illinois' 2nd Congressional District, a blizzard on the horizon and a lack of faith in elected officials has left many poll workers and voters with a dismal outlook for voter turnout.
An intense race for the Democratic nomination that started with 17 candidates has boiled down to three front-runners, former State Rep. Robin Kelly, former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson and Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), and comes to an end today.
The 2nd Congressional District is comprised of 263 precincts in suburban Cook County, 169 precincts in Chicago, 85 precincts in Kankakee County and 27 precincts in Will County. Approximately 420,000 registered voters reside in the district, of which more than half are in suburban Cook County.
The general election is scheduled for April 9.
“We didn’t have enough time to know and fully understand what these candidates are about,” said William Cal, 48, a judge of elections at precinct 19 in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of West Pullman.
By 8 a.m. this morning, at Brown Elementary Community Academy, which houses voting for precincts six and 19, only 21 people had cast their vote.
“I lost interest when Jackson got busted and everybody is discouraged now,” said Cal, who estimated his precinct would see less than 75 voters. “There’s no faith in any of these candidates.”
Other than Kelly, Halvorson and Beale, the Democratic contenders include Ernest Fenton, Dr. Victor Jonathan, Larry Pickens, Joyce Washington, Rev. Anthony Williams, Fatimah Muhammad, Clifford Eagleton, Mel Reynolds, Charles Rayburn, John Blythe and Gregory Haynes.
The Republican candidates for the 2nd district race are Beverly Reid, Lenny McAllister, Paul McKinley and Eric Wallace.
Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned the seat he held since 1995 in November, prompting Gov. Pat Quinn to set a special election to fill the vacancy.
Last week, Jackson plead guilty to misusing $750,000 in campaign funds, lavishing himself with personal items ranging from fur coats, to mounted Elk heads and a Disney vacation. He is facing more than four years in prison and will be sentenced on June 28.
“We’re hopeful that voters understand this is their opportunity, duty and responsibility to wipe the slate clean and select nominees for new representation in that district,” said Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections. “We sense some discouragement and apathy, but we hope that people realize no matter how we got here, or why we got here, we’re here and its time to pick new representation.”
Saying it’s “not a complicated election,” Allen said the polls opened “really, really smoothly” at 6 a.m. today and noted that the most eventful moment of the morning was when a roving election technician, who is driving from precinct to precinct, got his car towed. He said a light voter turnout is typical for a special election.
At 10 a.m. he said the Board of Elections was still fielding calls and hadn’t yet established an estimate of voter turnout.
One constituent said it didn’t matter which candidate was elected to fill the district’s vacant seat, “they’re all crooks.”
Patty Young, 56, a 20-year resident of Roseland, voted in precinct 44 at Jesse Owens Community Academy.
She was one of 30 people to cast their vote at that precinct by 9 a.m. today.
Young said she voted for former congresswoman Halvorson because she was discouraged by former State Rep. Kelly’s “over-aggressive and viscous” campaigning.
“I’ve watched this area go so far downhill over the years,” she said. “The politicians are not doing enough for us, they’re all filled with corruption and it’s just a mess.”
“I’m disgusted,” she said. “We need them to work for us, but it seems as if they only work for themselves and special interest groups.”