Early voting generates some long lines and longer waits
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com October 31, 2012 6:46PM
Bolingbrook resident Nick Behm (top left) swings his 2-month-old daughter Addison as he waits with others in the board room to cast a ballot during early voting in Bolingbrook Village Hall Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, at 375 W. Briarcliff Rd. in Bolingbrook. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 2, 2012 7:10AM
Joe Traynere walked into Bolingbrook Village Hall on Tuesday intending to vote early for the first time, but he said the wait was too long.
A sign outside the clerk’s office instructs voters to take a number. Traynere said he grabbed No. 62 and about five minutes later No. 19 was called.
“I quickly did the math and I knew it would be a long time before I got to vote,” he said.
Traynere gave up and decided to vote on Election Day.
“I don’t have three hours to wait,” he said.
Traynere, his wife, Will County Board member Jackie Traynere, and other Democrats worry that the long lines are a form of voter suppression that will keep Democrats from casting ballots.
Village Clerk Carol Penning, denied the claim.
“My reputation is everything,” she said. “I don’t want people to feel I would deliberately do something like that.”
But she also understood why some politicians were edgy.
“I think that everybody, because it is such a close election, has that fear,” she said.
Penning said she met with Norman Brown, chairman of the DuPage Township Democratic Party, late Tuesday to try to assure him there was no conspiracy to suppress votes.
“As soon as I was hearing about the complaints, we sat and talked,” she said. “We kind of ironed it out.”
“Carol Penning has been clerk for a long time,” he said. “I know she is the opposite party. But I think her heart is in the right place and she wants to do the right thing.”
Early voting is slower than Election Day voting because applications and ballot envelopes have to be printed on demand, Penning explained. Penning said she has 10 volunteers, three staffers and 14 voting booths. Bolingbrook has early voting hours only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. because of limited funds, she added.
The clerk said she decided it was better to offer some early voting hours rather than none, which was an option.
Brown said after the election he would get together with Penning to lobby for additional funding for future elections so the hours could be expanded.
With 1,818 early votes as of Tuesday, Bolingbrook was second only to Plainfield with 1,842 votes for local sites. More than 25,000 people had voted early in the county by Wednesday afternoon. The total four years ago was 33,793, but there were three weeks of early voting then compared to only two weeks for this election.
Early voting ends Friday in some locations and Saturday in others. (Visit www.thewillcountyclerk.com for information.)
County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots said she was aware of the complaints about long lines at some sites.
“We can’t control that,” she said. “People have to be patient.”
Voots said she talked to Penning on Tuesday and offered tips for streamlining her process.
Get a system
On Wednesday morning, voters who arrived early were out of Village Hall quickly. But as the morning stretched on, the waits grew to 40 minutes or longer.
Barb Dant said she tried to vote on the first day of early voting Oct. 22, but the line was too long; at 10:15 a.m., she was No. 46.
“So I left,” she said.
But because she is going to be out of town on Election Day, she came back to vote early Wednesday and arrived when Village Hall opened at 8:30 a.m. and took No. 1. Then she went and ran errands and got coffee before turning to vote at 10 a.m.
“I had to figure out the system,” she said. “I don’t have time to sit.”
Dave and Jean Narsutis said the lines for early voting were much worse four years ago when it was offered for the first time.
“This time it was done well and set up well,” said Dave, who like Dart got to Village Hall before early voting started. “We were in and out in 15 minutes.”
Willie Davis wasn’t as successful as the early-bird voters. She tried to dart over to the Village Hall to vote quickly on her break from work, but she left when she saw dozens of people ahead of her.
Others were willing to stick it out.
Nick Behm swung his 2-month-old daughter Addison in her child carrier as he waited to vote. He said he would persevere as long as Addison was quiet.
“Lines are to be expected,” he said. “I think more and more people are taking advantage of (early voting).”
Mike Styles, who took a day off of work to vote early, was not happy with the wait.
“It’s really long,” he said. “But I want to vote early in case I get sick or something and can’t get out on Election Day.”
Styles said a long line should never deter anyone.
“It’s a responsibility,” he said. “It’s a responsibility for all Americans to vote regardless.”