It's Election Day and thousands of Illinoisans will head to their respective polling places to cast ballots for offices and issues ranging from city mayor to school bonds. We'll keep tabs on the nationally-watched Chicago mayoral race and also provide updates on what's happening in the Windy City aldermanic ward races as well as election-related news throughout the state.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. in Illinois this morning and state Attorney General Lisa Madigan deployed a large team of assistant attorney generals and investigators out to monitor polling places and ensure that voters are not being disenfranchised or denied their right to cast a ballot. Madigan has 170 staffers out in the field and is encouraging voters to report any suspicious activity. Polls remain open until 7 a.m. and voters should be aware that they have the right to take unpaid time off to vote, as long as they have previously advised their employer that they plan to do so and take no more than two hours' time, according to Madigan.
In addition to the nationally-watched Chicago mayoral race and 18 aldermanic ward runoffs, here's a list of some of the other contests and issues voters will be casting ballots on today:
In the 6:00 hour this morning, PI's Ellyn Fortino caught up with Chicago mayoral challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia as he greeted transit riders at the Jefferson Park Blue Line station with State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) and Alds. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and John Arena (45th), the latter of whom is locked in one of 18 Chicago aldermanic runoff contests to be determined Tuesday. Click through for a report on what the candidates and electeds had to say at the start of Election Day and find out who was in attendance in support of Arena's re-election bid.
Chicago 37th Ward update
At around 8:30 a.m., PI's LaRisa Lynch visited Lafollette Park, 1333 N. Laramie, in the city's Austin neighborhood. The park is home to the 40th precinct in the 37th Ward, where incumbent Emma Mitts is facing off with challenger Tara Stamps. Election judges say turnout is busier than in February thus far. But Election Judge Kevin Coleman cautioned that "it is still early, though." About 20 people had voted by 8:30 a.m.
Chicago 41st Ward update
Progress Illinois also stopped by Onahan School, located at 6600 W Raven St., which is the polling site for precinct 21 and 35 in the 41st Ward. Election judges say turnout has been slow so far, but they note that voters may have taken advantage of early voting. As of 9 a.m., 27 ballots were cast in the 21st precinct. For the 35th precinct, 52 ballots were cast.
Turnout was also slow at Norwood Park Lutheran Church, the polling site for two precincts in the 41st Ward. As of 9:35 a.m., 32 ballots had been cast in the 46th precinct. In the 26th precinct, 40 ballots were cast. Looks like "everybody pre-voted," one election judge at the polling site, at 5917 N. Nina Ave., told Progress Illinois.
At about 10 a.m., Progress Illinois caught up with voter Danny Denis, 44, after the 41st Ward resident cast his ballot at Norwood Park Lutheran Church, 5917 N. Nina Ave. The 41st Ward features an aldermanic runoff contest between incumbent Ald. Mary O'Connor and firefighter Anthony Napolitano.
Denis said public safety and the city's pension situation were key issues that drove him to the polls.
"I think that the mayor had four years to do good for the city, and there's more negative I see that's been done with our police and fire[men]," Denis said. "He's removed more positions from our policemen, the firemen. He's set up all these cameras, red lights, speed cameras. There's all this revenue that he's generated in the millions, and yet he still cries that there's not enough money to fund the pension funds for guys who have worked 30 years and that deserve a pension, especially now when they're older and they can't get another job.
"I think that after four years, if you have more problems than solutions, I say, 'Why not give someone else an opportunity to try and fix it,'" said Denis, who disclosed that he voted for mayoral challenger Garcia and 41st Ward aldermanic challenger Napolitano.
Denis said he supported Napolitano over O'Connor because she has voted in lockstep with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"I don't think Rahm has done a good job in his years, and if she's been at it that long, and if she can't see it, let's give someone [with a] fresh voice [and] ideas an opportunity," Denis said.
45th Ward Update
We also visited Beard School, 6445 W Strong St., the polling site for three precincts in the 45th Ward. As of 10:35 a.m., 56 ballots were cast in the 48th precinct, 58 ballots in the 47th precinct and 55 in the 27th precinct.
UPDATE 1 (11:48 a.m.)Saint Constance School, 5864 W. Ainslie St., is the polling site for Chicago 45th Ward voters in precincts 21, 22 and 28. As of 11:30, 90 ballots were cast in the 22nd precinct, 58 in the 21st precinct and 72 in the 28th precinct.
UPDATE 2 (12:28 p.m.) 16th Ward UpdateAt the First St. Peter MB Church of Chicago, at 5524. S. Ashland Ave., 58 people have voted thus far in the 10th precinct of the 16th Ward. The voter count is on par with the February election, according to election judges. In the 11th precinct at the polling place at the United Steel Workers 2154 building, 5744 S. Western Ave., 46 people have cast ballots, which is much less than what was seen in the last round of voting when more than 100 people had voted by about this time. At Basil Charter School, 1816 W. Garfield Blvd., we collected voter tallies in the 2nd, 8th and 12th precincts. The counts were 70 (higher than in Feb.), 37th (lower than in Feb.), and 43 (lower than Feb.), respectively.
Ald. Toni Foulkes is going up against Stephanie Coleman in the 16th Ward.
UPDATE 3 (1:01 p.m.) 24th Ward UpdateThe Douglas Park Baptist Church, 1838 S. Kedzie Ave., is the polling place for the 10th precinct in the 24th Ward. Election Judge Brenda Garner says the number of voters in today's election is greater than what was seen in February.
"It's more people coming out that it was last time," said Garner. "I believe because Rahm Emanuel. They see how serious it is now. Around this time [last election], we had seen we had about 10 to 15 people. Currently, we have 36 people who cast ballots."
Michael Scott Jr., a 24th Ward aldermanic candidate, said he is "cautiously optimistic."
"I'm not done yet, all day long I will be shaking hands, meeting people and making sure if they hadn't heard my message yet, they will today," Scott added.
UPDATE 4 (1:12 p.m.)Aldertrack "made a good faith effort to collect palm cards for every candidate" in the Chicago aldermanic runoffs. Check put their Twitter page @Aldertrack to see what they were able to track down.
UPDATE 5 (1:31 p.m.)The campaign of mayoral challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia released a press statement about his final push for votes this afternoon:
Mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy Garcia joined volunteers at noon today on the Near West Side for the first of a series of afternoon mobilizations to get out the vote before polls close at 7pm tonight. On the final day of campaigning, Garcia shook hands at the Northwest Side's Jefferson Park CTA Blue Line stop and the Merchandise Mart Brown Line stop, then headed off to the Near West Side for a noon mobilization in the 1400 block of Hubbard in the heart of the Near West Side. His afternoon stops put him across the city -- until a 7:30 campaign rally at the UIC Forum that is expected to draw a huge crowd.
Today's runoff pits the pay-to-play politics of the incumbent against Garcia's populist commitment to prioritize the needs of ordinary residents in Chicago's neighborhoods.
Garcia's platform of putting families and neighborhoods first has garnered a groundswell of support across the city, where voters are angry over four years of Rahm Emanuel's giveaways to wealthy insiders while neighborhoods struggle with a pattern of neglect from City Hall. Garcia has made ending corporate tax breaks and special treatment for wealthy insiders the centerpiece of his campaign for change.
"Mayor Emanuel's wrong priorities, broken promises and bad choices have led us to this moment," say Garcia. "He's ignored the needs of our neighborhoods, closed 50 neighborhood schools, broke his promise to hire more police to keep residents safe, and forked over hundreds of millions of dollars in public giveaways to big corporations and wealthy insiders who've donated to his campaigns."
Garcia is fielding a formidable ground crew for election day: some 6,000 volunteers canvassing from more than 30 staging locations with a ground game that is targeting all 50 Chicago wards, with support from more than 150 organizing staff and dozens of volunteer attorneys troubleshooting irregularities in the field.
Volunteers expect to talk to hundreds of thousands of voters by the time polls close tonight at 7PM -- an effort that comes on the heels of hundreds of thousands of direct voter contacts by phone and door-knocking during the five-week run-off.
"I have seen the hunger for change in every neighborhood of our city," Garcia said. "Chicagoans are voting today to end pay-to-play politics at City Hall and put the needs of our neighborhood residents first. Everywhere we go, people have the same hope for the future -- a city free from the fear of shootings and violence, an end to red light and speed cameras that pick the pockets of ordinary drivers, and most of all, a city whose leaders listen to and act on their concerns. That is why people are voting for change today."
"We have just a few hours of hard work left before the people of Chicago will be able to celebrate their victory over the special interests who have run this city for far too long," Garcia said. "Today we will work hard, tonight we will celebrate, and tomorrow we will begin the work of building a better city for everyone -- together."
UPDATE 6 (2:35 p.m.)In the 16th Ward PI's Aaron Cynic spoke to Reed, who did not provide his last name. The 56-year-old from Englewood said Toni Foulkes was the best candidate to represent him in the Chicago City Council based on her experience as alderman of the 15th Ward.
"What we need in the Englewood area is someone who's going to fight for the people and that's Toni Foulkes," said Reed.
He said he is impartial when it comes to the mayoral race. Reed says electing an alderman who is willing to stand up to whoever is elected mayor is what's most important to him.
We don't need a yes man that agrees with everything the mayor says," Reed said. "Englewood needs some real help. I'm not too much concerned about who the mayor is going to be. The alderman is responsible for me."
Keith Kyzel, a resident of the New City area in the 16th Ward also said he supports Foulkes "because of her experience and her likeability and that people know her."
"They know she's stood up for the people, like with the school closings in the past," Kyzel added. "She passed the curfew ordinance for 12-year-olds to be in at 8:30 p.m. I think she has a pretty good chance."
Meanwhile, Jerry Thomas, spokesperson for the Coleman campaign, says they are expecting a win.
We feel very positive with all the canvassing we've done in the area," Thomas told Progress Illinois. "We're getting good reports from the precincts. We expect this to be a victory this evening. We're hoping that people understand she's really committed and that she has a good vision and they'll come out and support what she represents for the community."
Desmond Yancey, deputy political director for United Working Families and liaison to the Foulkes campaign had this to say this afternoon:
We had about 75 to 85 volunteers knocking on doors. I think it's going to be close, but Toni Foulkes has a really good base in this ward. A lot of people like that Toni has been a life-long resident of the neighborhood, was an Alderman for 8 [years] and an activist before that, so she's really worked to try to change things in Englewood."
UPDATE 7 (3:01 p.m.) PI caught up with 37th Ward candidate Tara Stamps, who is shooing away polls that show incumbent Emma Mitts at an advantage. Click through to read what she had to say this afternoon as well as voters who went out to cast their ballots at polling places in the ward.
UPDATE 8 (4:11 p.m.) PI talked to voters in two North Side Wards as well as 41st ward candidate and progressive Republican Anthony Napolitano, who is challenging incumbent Mary O'Connor's. Click through to see what Napolitano had to say as well as O'Connor's camp.
UPDATE 9 (4:24 p.m.) Progress Illinois talked with Mark Konopka, a 31st Ward voter who cast a ballot just before 4 p.m.at the Portage-Cragin Library, 5108 W. Belmont Ave. The library is the polling site for the 14th and 33rd precincts in Chicago's 31st Ward, which includes portions of the Belmont Cragin, Portage Park, Hermosa and Logan Square neighborhoods.
In the 31st Ward, incumbent Ald. Ray Suarez and former television reporter Milagros "Milly" Santiago are in a runoff. Suarez, the city's vice-mayor, has represented the city's 31st Ward since 1991.
Konopka, 44, said he came out to vote for Garcia in the mayoral race and Santiago in the aldermanic contest.
As for Garcia, Konopka said, "He seems qualified," although his critics "pointed him out as incompetent, but he should know what he's doing, and at least he looks more honest than running things through the way the current mayor did."
Konopka said he backed Santiago over Suarez, because he thinks she would bring positive change to the ward.
UPDATE 10 (4:38 p.m.) In the 10th Ward's 2nd precinct at St. Columba Catholic Church, 13323 S. Green Bar Rd., 166 people had voted by about 3:30 p.m., which is less than the same time in February. The same goes for the 3rd precinct polling place at the South East Sportsman Club, 13130 S. Avenue M, where 143 voters had cast ballots, compared to about 200 in February. The 5th precinct polling place, Clay School, located at 13231 S. Burley, also saw less voters compared to the same time in February, pulling in just 130 voters. Grissom School, 12810 S. Escabana St., in the 9th precinct saw about 200 voters by 3:30, which was comparable to February, and election judges say the pace is picking up.
Glenn, a 10th Ward resident, said he is a member of a local activist group called the Burnside Bums. He supported Sue Sadlowski-Garza because unions were supporting her.
"I like people that are union-backed because that's all the working class has for a voice today in the political world," said the 24-year-old student at the Art Institute of Chicago. Glenn said the people he grew up with were all connected to unions.
"They were people who were in different trades - they worked as carpenters and in the mills - all in some kind of manual labor.. My mom's an auto mechanic, my stepdad works for Canadian National," Glenn explained.
He also supported mayoral challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.
"I'm not a big Rahm fan. I don't like a lot of his policies. He's never been on the South Side for any of his campaigning or anything he's ever done other than to close the schools. That's the only time I've seen him go south of Bronzeville," Glenn noted.
Across the street from Grissom School, incumbent Ald. John Pope was knocking on doors to turn voters out.
"I think we're doing well," Pope said. "We've been tracking our data and trying to get people out to vote. We know it's a ground game with some unknowns in terms of Spring Break, Easter, the first runoff in a mayor's race. But we're going to keep pumping it. We've got our voters identified and a good story to tell."
Although 10th Ward numbers appear to point to a smaller turnout so far when compared to the February 24 election, with at least 4 precincts reporting lower numbers, Pope was confident about tonight's results.
"I grew up here, know a lot of people as you can tell. We want to maximize the number of people coming out so that includes going door-to-door and not just sitting back and expecting them."
UPDATE 11 (4:49 p.m.) At Foreman High School, the polling site for precincts 8 and 34 in Chicago's 31st Ward, a total of 133 people had cast ballots as of 4:35 p.m. The school is located at 3235 N. Le Claire Ave.
Progress Illinois caught up with voter Debbie Figueroa, 50, at Foreman.
Figueroa declined to say for whom she voted in the mayoral and local aldermanic races, but she did explain the top issues that brought her to the polls. They include public safety, ward services and education.
"The schools. The kids. Their safety," she told PI's Ellyn Fortino. "Is anybody taking the kids into consideration with their safety?"
She said she took issue with the record number of school closings in 2013, because students were forced to travel to other areas of the city, possibly across gang lines, "where they could get shot and killed."
UPDATE 12 (5:40 p.m.) At Falconer School, another 31st Ward polling site for the 35 precinct, 130 people had voted as of 5:25 p.m. The school is located at 3020 N. Lamon Ave.
UPDATE 13 (5:47 p.m.) Five polling places will remain open until 8 p.m. tonight as a report a court order, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Those polling places are:
Iglesia Mision Del Valle, precinct 17, (1847 N Kedzie Ave.) and James Otis School, precinct 37 (525 N Armour St) in the 1st Ward
Saint Monica Parish, precincts 3 and 12, (5115 N Mont Clare Ave.) in the 41st Ward
Left Bank At K Station, precinct 18, (300 N Canal St) in the 42nd Ward
Eastwood Tower, precinct 8, (4640 N Sheridan Rd) in the 46th Ward
The Board of Elections also reports that three election judges, in wards 9, 33 and 38, were removed from the posts due to inappropriate behavior, including late arrival, throwing a key envelope at another judge, playing loud music and belligerent behavior, and using obscenities in front of voters and fellow judges.
UPDATE 14 (6:28 p.m.) PI's LaRisa Lynch chatted with Michael Scott Jr., a candidate vying for retiring Ald. Michael Chandler's seat in the 24th Ward. Click through to find out where his mind is on Election Day.
UPDATE 15 (7:31 p.m.) Things are fairly quiet at the 45th Ward Ald. John Arena's campaign headquarters, but supporters are optimistic.
"I'm looking forward to another four years of progress and moving forward for the 45th," said Patrick O' Leary told PI's Michael Joyce.
UPDATE 16 (8:34 p.m.) Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel will remain in office after defeating challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. Emanuel has 56 percent of the vote to Garcia's 44 percent with 73 percent of precincts reporting. Click through to see what former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson had to say about the role of money in politics and how it impacted the Chicago mayoral election.
UPDATE 17 (9:03 p.m.) Garcia is making his concession speech, starting by saying he has been "loving Chicago for 50 years ... that's a whole lotta love." The crowd, who yelled their love for Chuy, boo'ed when he said he called to concede to Emanuel. Then told his story of how he came to Chicago as a little "from another land," adding that "the people of Chicago have made me who I am today.
"We may have missed by a little, but you put me here tonight and I will not forget you. Tonight, I have something to say to the next generation. We did not lose today, we tried today ... You don't succeed at this or anything else unless you try. So keep trying, keep standing up for yourselves and what you believe in and some day, one of you will be standing here where I am tonight," Garcia implored.
Check back with Progress Illinois for our full report from Garcia's election night headquarters.
UPDATE 18 (9:19 p.m.) Emanuel opened his victory speech with "Thank you, Chicago!"
"To the Second City that voted for a second term and a second chance," Emanuel said. "I have had the good fortune to serve two presidents. I've had the fortune of being elected to Congress, being mayor of the city of Chicago is the greatest job I've ever had and the greatest job in the world. I am humbled at the opportunity to continue to serve you, the greatest city with the greatest people for the next four years. I want to congratulate Chuy Garcia for running an excellent race. I want to also congratulate him, he's a good man who clearly loves the city of Chicago and clearly loves his family. As an immigrant, he represents the promise of Chicago. And I want everybody to hear this loud and clear across the country, you just saw an election between a grandson of an immigrant and an immigrant, which is why we are the greatest city in America."
Emanuel also thanked the voters for "putting me through my paces," saying "he will be a better mayor because of that."
"I will carry your voices, your concerns into the office of the mayor ... I hear you on the importance of neighborhood schools and better choices. I hear you on the importance of raising a minimum wage so that no family who works ever raises a child in poverty ever again. ... Not in the city of Chicago that if you work, a child should be raised in a home if you work, never know that work leads to poverty. Work leads to the middle class and the American Dream."
Emanuel also touched on the issue of ex-offenders.
"I also want to be clear. I hear you about the importance of finding jobs for our ex-offenders who have made a different choice in life ... and I hear you about the importance of building a Chicago where everybody gets a chance in building this great city -- from our roads, our waterways, our airports, our schools, our community colleges, our parks and our playgrounds. Everybody has a chance to participate in that great exercise called building a new Chicago."
UPDATE 19 (9:23 p.m.) Emanuel says he "understand[s] that the challenges we face will require me to approach them differently and work in a different fashion. The only way to meet these challenges is to bridge the gap between the things that have divided us and start on the things that unite us and bring us together."
"We are the City That Works and that means it has to work for everyone, in every neighborhood, every part of the city of Chicago," he added. "And in the era of hard choices, I can't promise that everyone will be pleased with every decision, but the challenges we face, we face as one community, one city, one voice where every voice counts. Make no mistake ... The decisions we make over the next four years will determine what Chicago will look like in the next 40 years."
UPDATE 21 (11:06 p.m.) Here's a full report from mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia's campaign headquarters from PI's Ellyn Fortino.
UPDATE 22 (11:31 p.m.) Four Chicago aldermanic races appear to be too close to call tonight:
10th Ward - Challenger Susan Sadlowski-Garza is leading incumbent John Pope 50.03 percent to 49.97 percent with 35 of 36 precincts reporting
16th Ward - Toni Foulkes is leading Stephanie Coleman 50.96 percent 49.04 percent with 35 of 36 precincts reporting
29th Ward - Challenger Chris Taliaferro is leading incumbent Deborah Graham 52 percent to 48 percent with 42 of 44 precincts reporting
43rd Ward - Incumbent Michelle Smith is leading challenger Caroline Vickery 50.38 percent to 49.62 percent with 44 of 46 precincts reporting
Meanwhile, the following races been called in these Chicago aldermanic elections:
UPDATE 23 (12:40 a.m.) Of interest to Midwest progressives following Indiana's anti-LGBT law's passage, a law meant to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Springfield, MO has been repealed by voters in Tuesday's election.
Meanwhile, Jim Langfelder won the race for mayor in Illinois' state capitol, defeating Paul Palozzolo. The son of a former Springfield mayor, Langfelder credited his win to grassroots campaigning.
That's it for today. We will bring more news and analysis on Tuesday's election on Wednesday.