Election Day in the Southland: Stakes high, turnout expected to be
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com November 5, 2012 5:42PM
Kimberly Nicholas, center, the equipment manager for Precinct 79, gets voting materials set up at the James Jesk Senior Center, 15350 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Forest, IL on Monday November 5, 2012. With her are Eric Hawthorne, right, and Lance Mrock, left, other election workers. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 7, 2012 6:18AM
The tight presidential race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney might be the main attraction that draws Southlanders to the polls Tuesday, but they’ve got plenty of company on the ballot.
Many voters also must decide who will represent them in Congress and the state Legislature, and which judges among several dozen should be retained. Will County voters will choose several county officials, including executive, state’s attorney, coroner, court clerk and county board members.
There are several local referendum issues to be decided, as well — 53 in Cook County and eight in Will County — plus a state constitutional amendment that would require a three-fifths majority vote of any governing body to increase benefits of any public pension or retirement system.
Still, about 20 percent of registered voters in Cook and Will counties can sit back, relax and wait for the returns to come in Tuesday night, because they already cast their ballots, officials in both Cook and Will counties said Monday.
For the remaining 80 percent, polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and as long as one is in line by 7 p.m., he or she can vote.
It’s also important to know where to vote, since many polling places have changed because of redistricting and reductions in the number of precincts. Both Cook County Clerk David Orr and Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots urge voters to verify their polling place this year by visiting www.cookcountyclerk.com/elections/voterprofile in suburban Cook County, or www.thewillcountyclerk.com in Will County, or www.chicagoelections.com in Chicago.
Smartphone users in Cook County also can visit m.cookcountyclerk.com.
Both county clerks said they previously mailed this precinct information to all registered voters — of which there are 1,346,723 in Chicago, 1,416,811 in suburban Cook County, and 386,172 in Will County, officials said.
For this election, suburban voters already broke records in all three ways of voting – early voting, grace period voting and by mail, Orr and Voots said. Orr said 543,615 voters cast pre-election ballots, and Voots figured 51,080.
More absentee ballots were requested this year because voters no longer needed to submit a reason to vote by mail.
“This is all indicative of a very robust, very concerned electorate,” Orr said.
Given the high level of interest already shown in this presidential election year, Orr said he expects a 70 percent voter turnout in Cook County, but not quite the record-breaking 76 percent turnout registered when Bill Clinton defeated President George Bush in 1992.
Presidential elections historically draw more than 70 percent of voters to the polls, he said. The one exception in Cook County in recent history was in 1996, with a 66 percent turnout when Clinton defeated Bob Dole, Orr said.
Voots is more optimistic, predicting a 76 percent voter turnout in Will County — same as in 2008, she said.
Both offices say they are prepared to deal with issues as they arise. To report problems in Cook County, voters should call (312) 603-0236; the number in Will County is (815) 740-4615.
Cook County voters also will have a choice of using a paper ballot or a touchscreen.
Among the referendum questions on the ballot:
Residents in several communities will decide on electrical aggregation, which allows the town government to negotiate electricity rates.
An advisory referendum asks Tinley Park residents whether to impose term limits on elected officials.
Homer Glen residents will vote whether to retain home-rule powers after its population fell below 25,000.
Country Club Hills has a measure to reduce the size of its city council by half.
Alsip voters will vote whether to do away with vehicle stickers, replacing the revenue with a utility tax.
Manhattan voters are being asked whether to approve a new library.
Flossmoor is seeking approval to borrow more than $7 million to improve its water system.