Southland voters take to the polls
By Donna Vickroy email@example.com April 9, 2013 11:30AM
Lockport resident Michelle Secor votes in Central Square Tuesday, April 9, 2013, in Lockport. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 11, 2013 6:12AM
Voter turnout was looking as gray as Tuesday’s morning skies.
But, like the rain, that was expected. Without the media splash of a presidential election, local contests typically draw fewer voters, especially in areas where there are uncontested races, said Cook County Clerk David Orr.
Orr spent much of the morning visiting south suburban precincts.
“More of the contested races are in the south suburbs this time,” he said, having stopped at precincts in South Holland, Country Club Hills and Blue Island. He was leaving Robbins and heading for Oak Lawn when we caught up with him.
Other than an issue at one polling place with a seemingly faulty electronic machine, which he said judges soon realized wasn’t plugged in properly, things seemed to be going smoothly.
“Judges are doing their jobs, polls are open, things are going well,” Orr said. “But they are slow.”
At the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 5220 in Oak Lawn, morning turnout was averaging about one voter every 10 minutes.
Things were even slower at the polling place inside Zion Lutheran Church in Tinley Park.
Both towns have hotly contested mayoral races, with newcomer Steve Eberhardt taking on longtime incumbent Ed Zabrocki in Tinley Park, while Sandra Bury is challenging Dave Heilmann in Oak Lawn.
Oak Lawn resident Michael Patton called the low community response “sad.”
“Voting is a mindset,” he said. “Some people take it seriously and others don’t. My parents always made a big deal out of voting.”
Now, Patton votes in every election. This time he was at his polling place inside the First Church of God to cast his vote for change, going with Bury and independent candidate Jane Quinlan.
In its defense, Oak Lawn was among the top five early voting sites, along with Matteson and South Holland, according to the clerk’s office.
Sheila Lettiere, a teacher in district 123, said rain would not keep her from exercising her right to vote.
“I try to stay aware of what’s going on in the community,” Lettiere said, after voting at the Oak Lawn VFW hall. “It’s important to support people you feel should be in office.”
At Faith Christian Reform Church in Tinley Park, Marie Hathaway and her son, Joseph Hathaway, together cast their votes for mayoral incumbent Zabrocki.
“We like the way things are run. Tinley Park really is the best place to live,” Marie said. “Zabrocki came to our block party. You see him all over town. He really cares about Tinley.”
Henry and Doris Doorn headed to their polling place together, as well.
“We always vote; it’s our duty,” Henry said. “This is a pretty important election.”
Alisa Matusek also voted. Matusek has lived in Tinley for 25 years and says she likes the way the town is run.
“I vote in every election. This year’s mayoral race is important, but I would have voted anyway. I was taught that voting is a privilege.”
About a mile away, at Zion Lutheran Church, Rick Beale was out early to cast his vote.
“I vote in every election,” Beale said. “It’s the only way to change things.”
Still, not all voting started off smoothly on Tuesday morning. Things got off to a rocky start in west suburban Naperville.
Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots authorized her first forced entry into a polling place early Tuesday after election judges found a building locked tight when they reported for duty.
Election judges are supposed to start their day at 5 a.m. setting up election materials before the polls open at 6 a.m. But the Tall Grass Clubhouse at 3324 Deering Bay Drive in the Naperville portion of Wheatland Township was closed.
Voots said two contact numbers she had for the building led only to voice mail messages, and no one could be reached to open the clubhouse. Voots even sent police to the contacts’ homes, but no one answered.
After consulting with the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, Voots authorized her field technician to break into the building. He used a screw driver to pry the lock open, she said. All the alarms were set off in the building, but the judges were able to get in and open on time so no voters were turned away, Voots said.
“We did get it open,” Voots said. “In the long run, it turned out pretty good.”
Contributing: Cindy Cain