PI Original Aricka Flowers Tuesday February 24th, 2015, 11:16am

LIVE BLOG: Voters Hit The Polls For Election 2015 (VIDEO)

Today is Election Day and voters are heading to the polls in municipal elections throughout the state. And all eyes are on the Chicago mayoral election to see if Rahm Emanuel will avoid a runoff.

It's Election Day and voters are hitting the polls to cast ballots in municipal elections throughout the state. Arguably, the most closely-watched race is the Chicago mayoral contest, which has garnered national attention. If incumbent Rahm Emanuel is forced into a runoff, it will signal that the discontent voiced by his critics about schools closings, crime, privatization and the influence of special interests in City Hall actually penetrated the voter base. 

Democracy Now took a closer look at the Chicago mayoral election yesterday, detailing the progressive opposition Emanuel is facing in his race against four challengers: Cook County Commissioner Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia, Ald. Bob Frioretti, businessman Willie Wilson, and former Harold Washington aide William 'Dock' Walls. Take a look:

Chicago voters will also be casting ballots for alderman; with some voting in wards featuring hot races between progressives and Emanuel allies. Here's our rundown on a number of the city's more notable aldermanic races.

There will be three to four advisory referendum questions on the ballot in Chicago, depending on the ward. The questions ask Chicagoans to offer their opinion on paid sick leave, campaign finance and rules for city of Chicago employees convicted of domestic violence. The three questions on all Chicago ballots are: 

  • "Should employers in the city of Chicago be required to provide their employees with paid leave in the event of a personal or family illness, an incident of domestic or sexual violence, or a school or building closure due to a public health emergency?"
  • "Should the city of Chicago or the state of Illinois reduce the influence of special interest money in elections by financing campaigns using small contributions from individuals and a limited amount of public money?"
  • "Should employees of the city of Chicago, if convicted of a domestic violence offense during employment, be referred to a treatment service and required to attend at least one session as a condition of continued employment?"

In 37 wards, voters will also be able to vote on a non-binding referendum about an elected school board for Chicago. Residents of those wards will simply be asked, "Should the city of Chicago have an elected school board?"

Earlier this morning, around 7 am, we caught up with Fioretti at his 28th ward polling place. H was remapped out of the 2nd Ward, where he is currently alderman. Click through to see what Fioretti said this morning about his chances and the possibility of a runoff.

We were in the 24th ward at around 8:30 a.m., hitting up Faith Community Church at 3456 W. Flournoy St. The polling site is in the ward's 18th Precinct. Shortly after 9:20 a.m., 39 people had voted at the polling site.

There are ten aldermanic candidates competing to replace retiring Ald. Michael Chandler in the ward. 

Andrew Price, Jr., 68, who has lived in the 24th Ward for more than two decades, said he voted for aldermanic candidate Michael Scott, Jr., who works for the park district.

Price said he voted for Scott, in part, because Chandler has endorsed him in the crowded 24th Ward contest. 

"I met Scott, and he's a likable fellow, and Chandler -- I've voted for Chandler in the past -- and Chandler recommended him," Price told PI's Ellyn Fortino.

Asked about the mayoral race, Price said he voted for incumbent Rahm Emanuel this election, as well as the one in 2011. Price said he believes Emanuel is the most qualified for the job.

"He's a smart guy. He's a friend of Obama's. I trust Obama, and if Obama recommends him, I trust his recommendation," Price explained. 

UPDATE 1 (12:04 p.m.): At about 11:40 a.m., 109 people had voted at the 46th Ward at the 17th Precinct polling place located at Irving Park and Lake Shore Drive. The aldermanic race in that ward is between incumbent James Cappleman and challengers Amy Crawford and Denice Davis.

UPDATE 2 (2:25 p.m.): Low voter turnout appears to be the theme of the day in Chicago's municipal elections. We saw low voter turnouts in six wards this morning and Aldertrack spotters report to witnessing "exceptionally low turnout in many precincts this morning. Some wards may be on track for a turnout below 20% unless the after-work crowd picks up in a big way," according to an email update this afternoon. 

Aldertrack also reports that Emanuel's name was missing from palm cards for organizations in the 2nd, 15th, 23rd, 25th, 33rd and 43rd Wards, where Emanuel tends to have strong support.

UPDATE 3 (2:53 p.m.): Much like Chicago, voter turnout appears to be low in Springfield. Voter turnout in 85 of the city's 102 precincts was at about 6 percent to 10 percent at around 11:30 a.m., which is "a little lower than expected," according to Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray. Polls opened on time and the process has reportedly gone smoothly for the first half of the day.

UPDATE 4 (3:36 p.m.): Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson is calling for an investigation into early voting due to "irregularities."

"What we find with some of these machines is that when we punch my name, then it comes out and in the print out it has Rahm Emanuel's name," Wilson said of machines at early voting polling sites, adding that he wants "the state's attorney, FBI, anybody we can get" to look into the allegations.

But Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections, vehemently denies that they was such an issue with early voting.

"We received zero complaints at our election central about the calibration of the equipment. We have no reason to investigate this matter further," Allen said. "This is an after-the-fact allegation that is a little mysterious."

UPDATE 5 (4:18 p.m.): PI's Ellyn Fortino talks to voters in the 24th and 36th wards, where voter turnout was low and residents had some interesting viewpoints about the mayoral race as well as the aldermanic contests in their respective wards.

UPDATE  6 (5:26 p.m.): As of 5:05 p.m., 69 people voted in the 2nd Ward's 15th Precinct. The precinct's polling site is at Sabin Magnet School, 2216 W. Hirsch St.

Six candidates are vying for the open 2nd Ward seat, left vacant by Ald. Bob Fioretti, who is running for mayor and was gerrymandered out of his ward.

Election judges say turnout has been low throughout the day. One election judge said it is the lowest turnout she has seen over the four years she has worked elections. 

UPDATE 7 (5:57 p.m.): Nearly an hour before polls close, voter turnout is quite low in Precinct 31 in the 37th ward. Just 149 voters of 811 registered voters have cast ballots, according to PI's LaRisa Lynch. While there was a strong early vote in the city, election judge Sharon Le Sure expressed concern about the voter turnout. Incumbent Emma Mitts is up against Tara Stamps, Leroy Duncan, and Maretta Brown-Miller.

"Of course there is a concern - people not coming out to vote," said Le Sure. "They need to vote on some of these important issues like an elected school board and [paid sick leave]."

UPDATE 8 (6:19 p.m.): Progress Illinois caught up with Wicker Park resident Warren Scott, 52, after he voted at his 2nd Ward polling site, Sabin Magnet School after work.

Six candidates are seeking the open 2nd Ward seat, being vacated by Ald. Bob Fioretti, who is running for mayor. 

The 2nd Ward was changed drastically during the 2012 remap. 

Asked about the ward remap, Warren called it "very gerrymandered."

"If you look at it, to walk from our house to get to where we vote, I have to walk through a different ward," Warren said. "You have to walk from the 2nd Ward to the 1st Ward to the 2nd Ward to vote."

With so many vote-getters in the race, Warren said he has been bombarded with campaigner mailers, phone calls and door knockers from the 2nd Ward candidates' campaigns.

Some of the key issues that brought Warren to the polls were potholes, other public infrastructure concerns and a lack of parking. 

Warren declined to disclose which 2nd Ward aldermanic candidate he supported. However, he noted that some of the candidates do not live near Wicker Park, and that he voted for the contender he thought would have the best understanding of his community's needs.

UPDATE 9 (6:27 p.m.): William 'Dock' Walls thinks the third time is the charm when it comes for his aspirations to be Chicago mayor. Walls says he thinks his message is getting through to voters, telling WGN's Marcella Raymond that, "Our message is still to those persons who are typically left out, you know. Our goal is to unify this city by promoting cultural diversity sensitivity. But most importantly, we want to make sure that those who are typically voiceless have someone who's in there fighting for them. There are a lot of issues in the city of Chicago and many of them can be solved if we close the corporate loopholes. If we stop pandering to those persons who contribute $32 million to one campaign and special interest groups who bolster another campaign. If we just, as average people, everyday people, band together and elect William 'Dock' Walls as mayor, we'll be fine." 

UPDATE 10 (6:42 p.m.): In the 2nd Ward's 25th Precinct, which has its polling site at the Wicker Park Field House, 113 people voted as of 6:30 p.m. The polling place will remain open until 8 pm tonight due to two election judges failing to show up for work this morning.

The 25th Precinct has a total of 742 voters, according to election judges.

Precinct 11 for the neighboring 1st Ward also has its polling location at the Wicker Park Field House. As of 6:30 p.m., 140 people had voted. More than 760 voters are registered to vote in that precinct, election judges said.  

UPDATE 11 (6:47 p.m.): Polling places in a few wards will be closing late due to election judges failing to appear on time this morning, along with other issues. The polling places that will remain open until 8 pm include:

Wicker Park Fieldhouse, 1425 N. Damen Ave., 2nd Ward, 25th Precinct 
Olympia Park, 6566 N. Avondale Ave., 41st Ward, 15th and 37th Precincts
Sovereign, 1040 W. Granville Ave., 48th Ward, 27th Precinct

UPDATE 12 (7:04 p.m.): Polling places have closed this evening except for those listed above.

UPDATE 13 (7:50 p.m.): Four Chicago aldermanic races have been called by WGN News: Incumbent Pat Dowell has been deemed the winner in the 3rd Ward race, garnering 74 percent of the vote. Challenger Patricia Horton has 26 percent of the vote, with 41 percent of precincts reporting.

In the 8th Ward, incumbent Michelle Harris will keep her seat with 69 percent of the vote and 50 percent of precincts reporting. Challengers Faheem Shabazz and Tara F. Baldridge have 16 percent and 15 percent of the vote, respectively.  

In the 19th Ward, Matt O'Shea, another incumbent, will remain in the city council, beating out challenger Anne Schaible. O'Shea has 72 percent of the vote, while Schaible has 28 percent of the vote with 70 percent of precincts reporting. 

With 38 percent of precincts reporting, incumbent Walter Burnett Jr. will keep his 27th Ward seat. Burnett has 74 percent of the vote, while challenger Gabe Beukinga has 26 percent of the vote.

UPDATE 14 (7:59 p.m.): The 32nd Ward race is being called for incumbent alderman Scott Waguespack. He has 80 percent of the vote with 60 percent of precincts reporting. Challenger Elise Doody-Jones has 20 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) will keep his seat as well with 81 percent of the vote and 58 percent of precincts reporting. Challenger Rory A. Fiedler garnered 19 percent of the vote.

In the mayoral race, which has not yet been called, Emanuel has 46 percent of the vote with 63 percent of precincts reporting, while Garcia has 34 percent. Wilson is coming in with 10 percent of the vote, Fioretti at 7 percent and Walls at 3 percent.

UPDATE 15 (8:10 p.m.):PI's Ellyn Fortino did a quick interview at Garcia's election night headquarters with Kristen Crowell, executive director of the progressive group United Working Families.

"Tonight we're poised to see the progressive movement that's been bubbling up over the last, really, 18 months come to fruition with these elections," said Crowell. "Not just what's at stake tonight in the mayoral race, but United Working Families has endorsed in 17 aldermanic districts where we're seeing in those specific wards higher turnout than in the other locations across the city. So we're seeing that people are activated and motivated to come out and vote for progressive candidates."

Crowell said early returns indicate a runoff is very possible between Emanuel and Garcia. When asked about what comes next for the progressive movement if an Emanuel-Garcia matchup is determined tonight, Crowell said: "I think there's two things at play here. There's one: we're going to continue down this progressive path whoever forces a runoff tonight, as I've said earlier we've got 17 aldermanic races in play. We expect to see some won outright tonight and also expect some runoffs forcing incumbents to play defense, which we're very excited about. But in the long term, it's about building an infrastructure that doesn't just come out for elections, but has a role in shaping the policy moving forward. We've seen this administration and Rahm over the last several months reinvent his image to move to the left and as we move forward, regardless of who the mayor is, it will be important for that movement to keep pressure on the elected officials to really adhere to a progressive platform."

UPDATE 16 (8:14 p.m.): Tonight's first incumbent to be unseated is Rey Colon in the 35th Ward.

Challenger Carlos Ramirez-Rosa beat out Colon getting 68 percent of the vote, while the incumbent garnered 32 percent with 71 percent of precincts reporting. Ramirez-Rosa is one of the progressive candidates that was supported by the United Working Families group.

UPDATE 17 (8:16 p.m.):  Voter turnout as abysmal this election day. Chicago is looking at the real possibility of a record low turnout, with an estimated 31 percent to 32 percent of registered voters hitting the polls. The record low was 33 percent in 2007.

Meanwhile, incumbent alderman Joe Moore will remain in his 49th Ward seat. Moore has 67 percent of the vote while challenger Don Gordon has 33 percent of the vote with 79 percent of precincts reporting.

UPDATE 18 (8:29 p.m.): From PI's Ellyn Fortino at Garcia headquarters:

The mood is upbeat at Garcia's election night headquarters at the Alhambra Palace restaurant in the West Loop.

Garcia campaign supporter Marty Castro got on stage just before 8:15 p.m., telling the crowd, "The numbers are still being counted, but they're looking really really good." Emanuel "is well below 50 percent" and "hot on his heels is Chuy Garcia."

Dozens of reporters are here, and supporters have been steadily arriving to the party, though the event space is far from full. Garcia has not yet arrived.

UPDATE 18 (8:45 p.m.): Fioretti thanked his supporters in a concession speech this evening, discussing the "mounting problems" Chicago faces, including crime, economic development, education, and inequality. Fioretti says the problems "can be solved here when we all work together as one."

"This is not a defeat," he added. "This is just the beginning for all of us because we are going to keep making change here in this city."

He jabbed at Emanuel's education plans, saying "we need to ... make sure our children have the right education. And when I say the right kind of education, not just pretend that we're doing something on pre-K and giving free tuition for others." Fioretti said ensuring proper education means having trades and vocations back in high schools, so students can be trained for good jobs.

"This election was about special interests on one end, big donors on another and the people of Chicago in the middle," said Fioretti. "We can say voter turnout was bad today, and we all know it. We've got to re-engage and connect with people so that they come back to vote here in this city, enjoy this city and say, 'I am proud to be a Chicagoan.'"

Fioretti says he is going to keep fighting to address crime and pension security in Chicago as well as job creation and economic security.

UPDATE 19 (9:12 p.m.): With 84 percent of precincts reporting, the mayoral numbers have remained steady with Emanuel at 46 percent and Garcia at 34 percent. Wilson is still in third place with 10 percent of the vote. Fioretti and Walls continue to round out the race with 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively. The Associated Press and WGN News are calling a runoff in the Chicago mayoral election. Just before the runoff call was made, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez( D-IL,4) said, if pushed into a runoff, Emanuel supporters "will roll up our sleeves and take our strong, serious message back to the people of Chicago." Gutierrez also praised Emanuel on his work as mayor in handling education and fiscal issues in the city. From PI's LaRisa Lynch at Tara Stamps' headquarters in the 37th Ward:

Just before 9 pm, with 31 of 41 of the precincts reporting, Stamps has 32 percent of the vote, while incumbent Mitts has 48 percent. Stamps says she anticipated a runoff with Mitts.

"What was exciting to me is how within the last month, the community started to embrace the idea of fighting for a neighborhood they deserve and what that looks like," said Stamps.

In reaction to the news of a runoff in the mayoral race, Stamps said she is "ecstatic."

"I wish the numbers were even more daunting," she added. "But we will take what we can get."

UPDATE 20 (9:28 p.m.): In his concession speech, Wilson said he will continue to work to improve schools and get rid of red-light cameras.

"Major corporations should not run our cities," he said. "The citizens should run our city ... We'll continue to be a major player around this country from now on."

Meanwhile, Gutierrez is warming the stage up for Emanuel as the mayor gets ready to give his speech in reaction to the runoff news.

UPDATE 21 (9:32 p.m.): Hitting the stage to Angels & Airwaves' "The Adventure," Emanuel thanked those who voted for him. To those who did not vote for him, Emanuel said, "I hope to earn your confidence and your support in the weeks to come."

When someone in the crowd boo'ed as Emanuel called his runoff opponent "a good man," the mayor corrected the dissenter and repeated his statement, adding that "I look forward to a debate of the issues in the weeks ahead so we can be clear about the choice for the city of Chicago's future.

UPDATE 22 (9:49 p.m.): Garcia opened his speech saying he spoke to the other candidates in the race, Wilson, Fioretti and Walls. "I look forward to continuing my conversations with them," he added.

"Today, we the people have spoken," Garcia went on to say. "Not the people with the money and the power and the connections, not the giant corporations, the big money special interests, the hedge funds and Hollywood celebrities, who poured tens of millions of dollars into the mayor's campaign. They all had their say. They had their say for too long. But today, the rest of us had something to say." UPDATE 23 (10:00 p.m.): "We're going to build a new Chicago," Garcia said in his speech tonight. "A Chicago that works for everyone. A Chicago that people will want to move to, not run away from. Starting six weeks from tonight, we're going to change it together."

Garcia also thanked Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, saying that he spoke with her this evening.

"Karen, I spoke with her a little while ago, said, 'Tell them that this is about the new democracy that's been ushered into the city of Chicago.' She sends her love and she sends her personality to all of us."

Meanwhile, comments are streaming in with reaction to news of a mayoral runoff in Chicago.

"Tonight's election numbers reveal one clear result: Chicago's voters shunned Mayor Emanuel and soundly rejected his corporate agenda that benefits the richest 1%," said April Verrett, executive vice-president of SEIU* Healthcare Illinois.

"Despite his over $30 million campaign war chest, and the backing of the city's wealthy special interests, Mayor Emanuel couldn't buy his re-election tonight. He will now have to face the voters of Chicago against Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, a longtime progressive champion for working families whose leadership stretches back decades to when Garcia was a key ally to Mayor Harold Washington.

UPDATE 24 (10:11 p.m.): Each of the advisory referendums on Chicago ballots were successful in today's election.

The question on whether employers should offer paid sick leave for illness or other extenuating circumstances was approved with an 82 percent vote with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

The non-binding advisory question on whether city employees should attend some form of treatment if convicted of domestic violence received 87 percent of voters' support. And 79 percent of voters' supported the idea of financing political campaigns with small donor funds as a means to reduce the impact of money from special interest groups and large donors.

The question of whether Chicago should have an elected school board, which was on ballots in 37 wards, garnered 89 percent of the vote in favor of having a board chosen by the people, instead of the mayor.

UPDATE 25 (10:59 p.m.): In addition to the mayoral race, there are 18 aldermanic races poised to head into a runoff:

  • 2nd Ward: Bryan Hopkins (29 percent) and Alix Pattison (24 percent)
  • 7th Ward: Incumbent Natashia Holmes (26 percent) and Gregory I. Mitchell (20 percent)
  • 10th Ward: Incumbent John Pope (45 percent) Susan Sadlowski Garza (24 percent)
  • 11th Ward: Patrick Daley Thompson (48 percent) and John K. Kozlar (36 percent)
  • 15th Ward: Raymond Lopez (48 percent) and Rafael Yanez (23 percent)
  • 16th Ward: Toni Foulkes (42 percent) and Stephanie Coleman (36 percent)
  • 18th Ward: Derrick Curtis (30 percent) and Lona Lane (30 percent)
  • 20th Ward: Willie Cochran (48 percent) and Kevin Bailey (20 percent)
  • 21st Ward: Howard Brookins Jr.(42 percent) and Marvin McNeil (14 percent)
  • 24th Ward: Michael Scott Jr. (30 percent) and Vetress Boyce (17 percent)
  • 29th Ward: Deborah Graham (40 percent) and Chris Taliaferro (22 percent)
  • 31st Ward: Regner "Ray" Suarez (48 percent) and Milagros "Milly" Santiago (37 percent)
  • 33rd Ward: Deborah Mell (50 percent) and Tim Meegan (35 percent)
  • 36th Ward: Omar Aquino (36 percent) and Gilbert Villegas (33 percent)
  • 37th Ward: Emma Mitts (49 percent) and Tara Stamps (32 percent)
  • 43rd Ward: Michelle Smith (42 percent) and Caroline Vickrey (36 percent)
  • 45th Ward: John S. Arena (45 percent) and John Garrido (40 percent)
  • 46th Ward: James Cappleman (47 percent) and Amy Crawford (38 percent)

Rey Colon was the only incumbent to lose his seat outright, having been beat out by challenger Carlos Ramirez-Rosa in the 35th ward, as aforementioned.

UPDATE 26 (12:26 a.m.): Click through for PI's Ellyn Fortino's full report from Garcia's election night headquarters.

Meanwhile, Tim Meegan released the following statement about his runoff race against Deb Mell in the 33rd Ward:

The people of the 33rd Ward have spoken--and they want change.
For too long, this ward has been represented by a machine that shuts the working families of the 33rd Ward out of the political process. Tonight, the people voted for a new direction.
My opponent had every possible advantage on her side. Money. Power. DNA. A 100 percent voting record with the mayor.
What she didn't have was a record of standing up for the people she was supposed to represent.
So, we organized. In the summer, throughout the fall and into the snow. We organized through the last minute Tuesday.
Now, tonight, we have shocked the establishment and thrown a wrench in the machine.
We have the momentum. And the bosses in City Hall, the corporate special interests that have tried to silence this movement, are afraid.
They threw everything at trying to eliminate any and all opposition to Rahm Emanuel and his corporate agenda and we are hearing from all over Chicago that it has been stopped in its tracks.
We will seize this moment, build this momentum, and build a new 33rd Ward--not for the rich and powerful, but for the people who work and live here.

UPDATE 27 (12:46 a.m.): That's it for tonight. Check back with Progress Illinois for analysis and additional reports on Tuesday's election.

*The SEIU Illinois State Council sponsors this website.

Image: AP/Seth Perlman

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