PI Original Aricka Flowers Tuesday March 18th, 2014, 11:05am

LIVE BLOG: The Illinois 2014 Primary Election Is Here

It’s Election Day and voters will visit the polls throughout the day to support the candidates they would like to see on the ballots in the November General Election.  

It’s Election Day and voters will visit the polls throughout the day to support the candidates they would like to see on the ballots in the November General Election.  

There are several key races that are of interest today, including the Republican race for Illinois governor and the U.S. Senate, the state Treasurer’s race, the U.S. House races in the 11th and 13th districts, the state legislative races in the 10th, 26th, 39th and 40th districts, and the Cook County Board of Commissioners 1st District race. 

This morning, things got off to a rocky start for Jhatayn ‘Jay’ Travis, the Democratic challenger in the 26th District who is up against incumbent Christian Mitchell. According to her campaign, the candidiate “was turned away from her polling place at 6 a.m. today due to alleged ‘voting machine’ problems.”

“When I went to cast my vote today at 6 a.m. at the Paul G. Stewart Center, I was told that there were problems with the voting machine and that I would have to return in an hour and a half,” Travis said. “A group of elderly senior citizens were also turned away from the polls at that time.”

Travis filed a complaint with the Board of Elections after voters were reportedly turned away from the polls in the following areas:

  • Ward 4, Precincts 23/24
  • Ward 4, Precinct 19
  • Ward 4, Precinct 32
  • Ward 4, Precincts 11/30
  • Ward 4, Precinct 6
  • Ward 3, Precinct 12 (Jay’s polling place)
  • Ward 3, Precinct 19

“It’s unconscionable to turn away our elderly senior citizens when the polls are supposed to open, or to ask a working parent to arrive late to work because he was waiting to vote,” said Travis. “This is voter suppression, plain and simple. It’s a desperate and unethical move by entrenched politicians who are trying to buy and clout their way to victory.”

Travis also made note of the fact that some of the voting problems took place in the 4th Ward, where Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was formerly an alderman. Preckwinkle is a Mitchell supporter and the state lawmaker formerly worked for the county board president. According to Travis’ camp, Mitchell “has enjoyed considerable support from her donor base in this competitive primary race.”

Travis eventally cast her ballot at 7:30 a.m.

40th District morning update

Around 8:30 a.m., we caught up with Chicago Ald. Deb Mell (33rd), whose former 40th district legislative seat is up for grabs, at Brands Park, a polling place in her ward. At the time, just 20 voters had come in to cast their ballots. Nonetheless, Mell was optimistic about voter turnout improving: “Anytime there’s not a presidential election things are kind of low, but I think we’ll have a good turn out.”  

Mell also voiced her support for Jaime Andrade, who took over her seat when she went to the city council. 

“I think Jaime’s doing a great job and so I’m supporting him and I’m out here saying ‘hi’ to folks.”

When asked about comments from other 40th District candidates who say Andrade is a part of the Chicago political “machine” and “Mell dynasty”, the alderman said the candidate has his own set of qualifications for the job.

“Jaime has been working in this area for 18 plus years,” Mell said. “He really knows the neighborhood and knows the issues and I think he’s the right man for the job.”

Andrade is up against four other candidates in the primary election: attorneys Aaron Goldstein and Nancy Schiavone, who is also the 35th Ward Democratic Committeeman; Wendy Jo Harmston, a community development organizer; and Mark Pasieka, an electrical engineer. Read more about the controversial race here.

Check back with Progress Illinois throughout the day for updates from candidates and polling places on our Election Day live blog. This evening, we will provide updates from election headquarters as well as results in our Election Night live blog.

UPDATE 1 (10:17 a.m.): By 9:30 a.m., about 26 people had voted at the Brands Park polling place in Precinct 9 of the 33rd Ward.

This morning, we caught up with Jeff Gilbert, a 63 year-old resident of the 40th District since 2011. He says he voted for Andrade in 40th District race.

“I thought most of the literature was worthless,” Gilbert said of the campaign mailers he has received. “I tried to read about people in the last day or two and make a judgement. I looked at newspaper endorsements and why they endorsed people, and I made a judgement on that basis.”

Gilbert says the primary election does not typically leave him feeling overly supportive of one candidate over another.

“In a Democratic primary, it’s often the case that there’s lots of people I would generally agree with, and I don’t like to be the kind of voter that says, ‘Well, I agree with this person on this one issue’ … I try to get a sense of who had good judgement, who was a balanced thoughtful kind of person,” he explained. “There was nobody who stood out that I thought would be some sort of terrible person to have in there.”

For Gilbert, the most important issue is the environment. He wants to see state lawmakers do things like raise the gas tax and subsidize other forms of energy.

“Part of it could be that they’d be outspoken and sort of blast past some of this [climate change] denial,” he said of his criteria of a candidate that would garner his support.  

Andrade’s endorsement from the Sierra Club was a key reason why Gilbert voted for the candidate.

“That was one of the things that caused me to feel like he was a guy I could support,” Gilbert said. “Truth be told there were other Democratic candidates who seemed good on the environment and I didn’t feel like other people were necessarily going to be bad, but I think had he not had a record like that, I would have been very concerned if I voted for him.” 

UPDATE 2 (12:28 p.m.): U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8), who is not facing a Democratic challenger in the primary election, voted Tuesday morning at Willow Creek Community Church.

“I am pleased to join my neighbors in voting in this Primary Election. I encourage Illinoisans of both parties to exercise their right to vote today. I am proud of the work we have accomplished in cutting government waste and fraud, growing small businesses, investing in infrastructure and improving the lives of our Veterans. However, many middle class families in the 8th district are still struggling to get by and our work is far from complete,” said Duckworth. 

There are two Republican candidates, Manju Goel and Larry Kaifesh, who are looking to win their party’s nomination and go up against Duckworth in the General Election.

UPDATE 3 (1:15 p.m.): Check out our full report from the field as we catch up with 40th District candidate Nancy Schiavone as she sets out to canvass and get voters to the polls today.

UPDATE 4 (1:57 p.m.): Voter turnout is pretty abysmal thus far at one polling place we have visited. At Barry Elementary School, located at 2828 N. Kilbourn Ave., Precinct 24 in the 31st ward reporting having just 48 ballots cast as of 1:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Precinct 5 in the same ward had 53 voters cast ballots as of 1:30 p.m. 

UPDATE 5 (2:26 P.M.): PI reporter Ellyn Fortino spoke with an election judge for Precinct 5 in the 31st Ward who said just 58 people had voted in the precinct as of 2:00 p.m.

Precinct 5 Judge Ofelia Rodriguez said mostly “old-timers” and parents with small children have voted thus far. She has worked as a Precinct 5 election judge since 2002.
 
Rodriguez said there’s been a “lull” all day, with just a few people coming in to vote early in the morning. After that, she and the other election judges “just sat there” waiting for other people to trickle in.
 
Rodriguez called Tuesday’s voter turnout thus far “lousy,” adding “It’s so bad we’re falling asleep.”  
“The only time I’ve seen it busy was during the presidential elections,” she continued, saying that at 2 p.m. the polling site is typically filled with voters during a presidential election.
 
“It’s kind of sad that we haven’t had a better turnout,” she said. “This is indicative of what it will be like (after people get off work) … it’s not going to pick up.” 
 

Rodriguez said Democratic ballots have mostly been pulled so far, but some Republicans have also voted.

UPDATE 6 (3:07 p.m.): More disappointing voter turnout numbers: As of 2:38 p.m., 59 people have cast ballots in Precinct 26 in the 31st Ward at Ken-Well Park, located at 2945 N Kenosha Ave., in the 39th District race.

UPDATE 7 (3:28 p.m.): From PI Reporter Ellyn Fortino:

Progress Illinois chatted with a community member who voted at the polling site at Ken-Well Park for Precinct 26 in Ward 31.
 
Bill Otano,54, said he pulled a Democratic ballot and voted for Will Guzzardi, who is challenging incumbent State Rep. Toni Berrios in the 39th District. Otano voted for Guzzardi because he “just wants change” and “new faces” in Springfield. 
 

Otano said Guzzardi will bring “new thinking” to the legislature, adding that he is “tired of this bickering and people not doing anything for their community.”

 
He added that he thinks Berrios has been there too long and says state lawmakers should have term limits. 
 
Additionally, Otano pointed out that he has been flooded with mailers from the candidates, but mostly from Berrios supporters. 

“She was really hitting it hard (with the mailers),” he said. “I don’t even read it. I just tear it up.”

UPDATE 8 (4:02 p.m.): More from PI reporter Ellyn Fortino:

Jose Nazario, a 10-year resident of the 31st Ward, also voted at Ken-Well Park and marked his ballot for Will Guzzardi.

“I’m not a Berrios fan,” Nazario, 50, said. “I don’t believe in so many family [members] being in politics. They’ve got the whole clan in there…I don’t think (Guzzardi) is going to have his family in there. Not yet, anyways.”
 
Nazario thinks Guzzardi, who was just 125 votes shy of beating Berrios in the 2012 election, can unseat the long-time incumbent this time around.

“Why not let a new person have a chance,” he added. 

UPDATE 9 (7:30 p.m.): Progress Illinois Editor in Chief Aricka Flowers was a guest on WVON’s “The People’s Show” with Mark Wallace this evening to discuss the election and Illinois politics.

UPDATE 10 (7:51 p.m.): PI’s Ellyn Fortino serves up a report on Guzzardi last pitch to voters along with 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti. See the full report here.

UPDATE 11 (8:27 p.m.): We have now switched over to our Election Night live blog. Click through for the latest this primary election night. 

Image: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

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