The polls are open and Chicagoans are heading to their polling places today in what is almost certainly a two-part process to elect a new mayor for the nation’s third largest city.
Fourteen candidates are vying for the top job — a historically large field. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters face off again on April 2.
Voters will also select a city clerk, treasurer and aldermen in all 50 of the city’s wards.
Here’s what you need to know before voting in Chicago.
Follow Chicago Tribune reporters today as we cover the municipal election with live stories, photos and tweets:
1:51 p.m. ‘I didn’t get to do as much research as I usually do’
Darlan Gordon, 56, is recovering from surgery but that didn’t stop him from voting.“I just came out anyway,” Gordon said.
He was among the 73 residents from the 5th Ward who had voted just after 1 p.m. at the South Shore Fine Arts Academy in the Grand Crossing neighborhood. The sound of children screaming and playing instruments could be heard from the polling place that was mostly empty.
Even though he felt dizzy, Gordon said he believed it was important to vote because of issues in the community involving police and housing. But his medical problems stopped him from doing thorough research on all the mayoral candidates.
“It was a lot,” Gordon said. “I didn’t get to do as much research as I usually do.”
1:26 p.m. Chicago headed for record-low turnout
Chicago was on pace Tuesday afternoon toward a record low turnout of about 30 percent in the historic 14-way mayoral race.
Without a last minute surge of voting, that anemic total be the lowest ever recorded in a city election since 2007, when Richard M. Daley won his sixth and final term.
Roughly 303,000 voters — about 19 percent of registered voters — had cast ballots as of 1 p.m.
“We’re not seeing significant turnout,” election board spokesman Jim Allen told reporters.
Many of the outsider candidates have noted throughout the race that they believe low turnout favors establishment candidates, such as Bill Daley, Toni Preckwinkle, Gery Chico and Susana Mendoza.
“There’s clearly, beyond the polls, there are actual voters who are undecided,” he said. “We hope voters make up their minds and participate. We still have another six hours to go before the polls close, but it appears some voters are either just disengaged or not willing to make a decision until they know who’s in the runoff, assuming there is a runoff.”
“Some people have said they’ve got it narrowed down to 2 or 3 candidates and can’t make up their mind. Well, at some point you’ve got to pick and vote.”
However, Chicago’s pool of registered voters is 11 percent higher than it was in 2015. That is thanks largely to a surge of registrations tied to the November mid-terms. So part of the low turnout tally could be that those November voters are not turning out for the February city election.
One polling place was expected to remain open until 8 p.m., after equipment problems delayed the start of voting for more than two hours after polls were scheduled to open. Election officials will ask for a court order to extend voting hours at the Independence Park site in the Irving Park neighborhood (third precinct of the 45th Ward).
Officials are still investigating whether a second polling site was open late.
The lack of voter turnout was part of a day that saw scattered problems throughout the city, the removal of at least two election judges and a report of shots fired outside of one voting site.
One judge was pulled from a Humboldt Park neighborhood polling place after she reportedly engaged in electioneering for an unnamed aldermanic candidate and then had two associates threaten other workers at a 26th Ward polling place.
A second judge was also pulled from duty because she was reportedly intoxicated while working a polling place located at a 34th Ward polling place at a West Pullman neighborhood school.
Gunshots were also fired outside a McKinley Park polling place, though election officials said it wasn’t clear that the incident was related to the election or a campaign. Allen said police found a weapon after stopping a vehicle that matched a description of the apparent shooter.
It’s not clear who was the shooting’s apparent target.
“We do not know if that was someone working with a campaign, because the person refused to cooperate with police,” Allen said.
–Juan Perez Jr. and Bill Ruthhart
1:10 p.m. Late start, but canvassers say no one left without voting
The first ballot was cast at Ceviche Peruvian Seafood & Steakhouse, 2554 W. Diversey Ave. in Avondale, around 6:30 a.m., due to the a late opening, according to election judge Maria Ramirez. Ramirez said she arrived at 5 a.m. but had to wait until 5:30 a.m. for the restaurant to be unlocked. Poll workers were setting up until around 6:30 a.m., when the first ballot was cast.
Bronwen Schumacher, 25, a field canvasser for aldermanic candidate Rossana Rodriguez, said some voters were frustrated with the delay, but she didn’t see anyone leave without voting. Both she and Nora Sharp, 31, another Rodriguez canvasser, said they were more motivated by the aldermanic races than the mayoral race, which Sharp describes as “a little bit ‘Hunger Games’-style.”
“This is such a moment compared to a lot of elections in the past… the outpouring of all of these progressive candidates in so many different individual wards,” Sharp said. “It’s more like, wow, there’s really an individual opportunity here to not continue on the path of business as usual.
“Inside Ceviche Peruvian Seafood & Steakhouse, voters walked through a darkened restaurant decorated with paintings and fabric art, fake plants and a chandelier to get to the voting booths.
Doris Wann, 37, and her partner Natalie Ridge, 30, voted together at Ceviche. They said they almost always agree about politics, and voted for the same candidates. Ridge said one of her and Wann’s biggest concerns was the city’s finances. They both voted for Amara Enyia — Ridge owns Canine Sports Dog Training and said she likes Enyia’s focus on small businesses.
Both she and Wann said they wanted to see increased funding of Chicago Public Schools. Wann’s 14-year-old daughter Mia Meza loves robotics and engineering, but her school doesn’t have any programs that would help her explore that enthusiasm. Wann and Ridge pay for her to join weekend coding classes and robotics clubs.
“We’re lucky in the fact that we can afford to pay for those things,” Ridge said. “But how many kids whose parents can’t afford (extra classes) have this interest in something that’s going to be fueling our economy … that can’t get access to these programs to learn? That’s not fair.
“Lilian Salvador, 73, said she wants to see change and voted for Garry McCarthy for mayor. “I know he’s not going to win, but still,” she said. She’s voting for Ald. Deb Mell, 33rd, for re-election because “she’s doing a good job.”
12:55 p.m. ‘This directly impacts me, I live here’
A trickle of voters stopped Tuesday morning into Cornerstone Baptist Church in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood, and Carolyn Little thought the turnout wasn’t good enough.
“If you are consistent (about voting), someone is going to hear you and take you seriously,” Little said.
She was the 38th voter just before noon in the church’s gymnasium that was converted into a polling place for the 20th Ward. She thinks the city needs a change in leadership. She especially would like to see local leaders tackle gun laws.
“To me, everyone wants to put a Band-Aid on it,” Little said about the country’s gun laws.
John Brady, 53, who also voted in the 20th Ward, said crime was a top concern that influenced his vote. He also wants to see an elected school board rather than appointed.
“I feel like it’s really important to vote in a mayoral election because this is the person who is going to be at the helm of our city,” Brady said. “This directly impacts me, I live here in the city so it’s important that I have a say or a vote in who runs it.”
Woodlawn voter David Lubin, 38, said Tuesday’s election was important because there wasn’t an incumbent running for mayor or for alderman in the 20th Ward. Ald. Willie Cochran is not seeking re-election and is facing federal corruption charges.
Jack Balch, 21, said he voted in the 20th ward for Jeanette Taylor who is running for alderman because she aligned with two issues the University of Chicago student was most concerned about.
“I was really interested in the issues around the legalization of marijuana and the (Community Benefits Agreement) for the Obama library,” Balch said.
12:53 p.m. Anemic turnout for mayoral election
Including early voting, vote-by-mail and Election Day voting, just under 279,000 voters had cast ballots as of noon on Tuesday, reflecting what’s so far been an anemic turnout total of 17.6 percent, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
–Juan Perez Jr.
12:16 p.m. Despite low turnout, polling-place issues
More than four hours into Election Day voting, legal volunteers answering phone lines were reporting a number of issues at polling places, said Timna Axel, a spokeswoman for Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.
“It’s been a fairly busy morning,” Axel said.
Voters in need of real-time advice can call and speak with one of about 100 lawyers donating their time to fair and safe Election Day practices by dialing (866) 687-8683 (866-OUR-VOTE), a hotline coordinated by Election Protection, the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition.
By 11:30 a.m., Axel said the volunteers became aware of several issues. Incidents of electioneering were being reported at polling places in Uptown and North Lawndale, she said. In Pilsen, a polling place was moved and there were no signs up explaining where the new polling place was set up or how to get there, Axel said. Volunteers trained by the for Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights put up a sign indicating the new polling place there, she said.
“Some places have ballots that were not ready to go, and a few other polling places opened late and we had a few voters who had to leave without casting their vote,” Axel said.
Jim Allen, the spokesman for the Board of Elections, also said he was aware of a number of voters who said they were unable to vote when they arrived at polling places early Tuesday, but he couldn’t say how many voters may have been impacted or where. On Twitter, at least two people used hashtag #Chicagoelection to say polls weren’t open in the 45th ward and 46th ward.
“I don’t have a number handy, but we tend to eliminate them if they say they can get back by 7 p.m. and vote,” Allen said.
Axel said the lawyers volunteering also received calls about some machines breaking down and some polling places not offering Election Day registration.
The Board of Elections’ hotline number for Election Day only to report any issues is 312-269-7870.
Anyone needing help from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights can call (866) 687-8683 (866-OUR-VOTE) or for help in another language, three other numbers if they need real-time help:
- 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) – Spanish language hotline
- 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683) – Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu and Tagalog hotline
- 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287) – Arabic language hotline
— Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas
11:52 a.m. ‘I’m looking for leadership that’s inclusive’
One polling location in Bowmanville was opened up for election officials by a first-shift brewer.
Residents of the city’s 40th Ward cast their votes inside Half Acre’s Balmoral Brewery as GoneAway IPA brewed.
Yvette Pryor, 50, filled out her ballot with barrels to her right and thousands of shiny cans of Daisy Cutter Pale Ale and GoneAway behind her. Kaydy, a tiny terrier mix in matching camo, looked on as Pryor made her picks.
“If someone asks you for your opinion, you should give it,” said Pryor.
Pryor served in the Navy for almost 29 years, she said, and would tell her sailors that you might not get to choose your immediate bosses, but you can vote on the big ones.
“I’m looking for leadership that’s inclusive, that can look at problems holistically and several degrees of separation from the old regime,” said Pryor.
And so Pryor said she’s interested in Maggie O’Keefe for alderman and Lori Lightfoot for mayor.“It’s never bad to have some political experience but sometimes new blood, new life, is a good thing,” she said.
Pryor said she’s heard people say they’re not going to vote because there are too many candidates.
“Even if you’re voting for one of the 14 that may not win, I think that you’re still making a statement. You’re saying what you value and what you stand for and I think that’s really important,” said Pryor.
“It’s one thing to say all these things on social media,” said Pryor. “It’s another to take time out of your day and walk in here.”
The taproom would usually be open later in the day for voters to stop in for a beer, but it’s closed for refurbishing, said Emily Cripe, the brewery’s director of human resources. The company is still happy to host voting.
“A lot of our employees are pretty civically minded,” said Cripe. “It feels like the right thing to do.”
Cripe, 40, of Avondale, said she voted in the 35th Ward this morning.
“I really like to vote on Election Day,” she said. “All the races this time around are important to me.”
–By Morgan Greene
11 a.m. Voting totals
By 11 a.m., about 118,000 people had voted on Election Day in Chicago, according to the Board of Elections—about 7.4 percent of Chicago’s registered voters. That’s on top of more than 125,000 who voted early—for a little more than 15 percent of voters who had cast ballots by about 11 a.m.
10:10 a.m. Avondale voters thinking about taxes
Andrew Georgis, 38, brought his son Miles Georgis, 1, to the polling place at the Windy City Fieldhouse, 2367 W. Logan Blvd. in Avondale. Both the aldermanic candidates in his ward, Daniel Laspata and Proco “Joe” Moreno, have both had their scandals, which hasn’t made it easy for him to decide who to vote for, Georgis said. Ultimately, he decided to vote for Laspata.
“I just kind of had enough of Moreno,” Georgis said. “He seems like a kind of cartoonish, corrupt alderman.”
Stuart Goldberg, 37, is a regular voter in Chicago municipal elections, he said.
“I’m doing my civic duties,” he said. He owns Fullerton Pawners, a pawn shop in Belmont Cragin. He doesn’t want his property taxes to increase, which is one of the reasons he’s voting for mayoral candidate Jerry Joyce.
Rosa Ramirez, 72, a retired school principal, also doesn’t want her property taxes to go up. She said it can be difficult to manage on a fixed income. She started voting in municipal elections when she was 25, because when she was young, “nobody thought anything would change.”
“We have to get out there and care about the city, care about what’s going to happen,” Ramirez said. Now with so many people running for mayor, there are more candidates who align with voters’ interests, she said.
“You have an opportunity to choose somebody that’s not governed by ‘the machine’ and maybe make Chicago a better place,” Ramirez said.
9:42 a.m. ‘Worried thinking about that runoff election’
Nureen Ansari said she has worked at the polls for years. This year she is an election coordinator in the city’s 39th Ward at Volta Elementary.
“I think I’m just into the whole long day rush thing,” said Ansari, 22, of Albany Park.
Ansari voted early. Police justice was one of the issues she thought about as she filled out her ballot.
“I’d like there to be more accountability,” she said. “They should be questioned about their actions, maybe held accountable for what they’ve done.”
Only a few voters trickled through the school Tuesday morning as snow coated the sidewalks outside, but Ansari said there were more voters than she expected. Almost 50 people had cast votes by 9 a.m.
“Mostly I’m just worried thinking about that runoff election because there are so many candidates,” Ansari said.
9:13 a.m. Voting ramps up as day breaks
The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners says that as of the end of the 7 a.m. hour, 42,171 people had voted on Election Day, on top of more than 125,000 people who voted early. There are a total of about 1.58 million people registered to vote in Chicago, an increase from the 1.42 million registered for the 2015 election and the 1.4 million registered for the 2011 election.
8:58 a.m. 14th Ward votes on Ald. Ed Burke’s future
In Gage Park, the barber chairs at Delia’s Beauty Salon were tucked in to make room for a line of voting booths. The salon, located in the bustling 2800 block of West 55 th Street, served as the polling location for the 21st precinct in the city’s 14th Ward. Large posters showing hairstyles for men and women towered over voters. Less than a dozen voters had a cast a ballot here in the first hour and a half of polls being open, according to poll workers.
Embattled Ald. Edward Burke is up for re-election in this ward while facing a federal attempted extortion charge. He faces candidates Jaime Guzman and Tanya Patino.Gage Park voter Gilberto Dimas, 53, said he was seeking change in local leadership. Dimas said he’s gone to Burke’s office four times in the past seeking help and never saw the longtime alderman. He cast his vote for Patino, he said.
“We simply want change,” Dimas said in Spanish. “We have a long time with the same alderman. … He’s never worried about the Latino community.”Lorena Gonzalez, 33, stopped into Delia’s to cast her ballot, also seeking change. She grew up in Gage Park and is now raising her children in the neighborhood.
“The most important thing about this election was, honestly to me, was alderman, I want more change in the neighborhood,” Gonzalez said.
8:40 a.m. ‘Seeing people walk in … it makes me happy’
Jackie Abelar is 16 years old yet Tuesday marks the second election she has helped manage as a poll worker.
Abelar, an election judge at Delia’s Beauty Salon in the 14th Ward, said nine people had voted in the first hour and a half at the Gage Park polling location. The low turnout didn’t surprise her; she expects the polling site to get busier in the afternoon.
Although Abelar can’t cast her own ballot, she finds the work encouraging.
“Seeing people walk in and knowing that people are actually coming in to vote and make their voice counts, it makes me happy,” Abelar said.
8:08 a.m. Voters trickle in
People trickled in to DePaul University’s Athletic Training Center, the 41st precinct in the 43rd Ward, early Tuesday.
Jacqueline Nguyen, 17, one of the election judges, re-did her make-up during a lull. There had only been 19 voters by around 7:20 a.m., according to election judge Jerry Spencer, 53, who said 75 people had voted at the precinct by the same time during the November elections and they had a line of 30 people out the door.
Spencer, Nguyen, and Gale Miller, 49, the coordinator, all worked together for the first time as judges at the precinct in November.
Terry Watson, 40, said he has voted in every municipal election since he was old enough to vote. He wants to see change and hopes that voting for Lori Lightfoot will send a message.
“We’re paying for other people’s mismanagement,” Watson said. “If people aren’t held responsible, it continues.”
8 a.m. Candidates for mayor raised $28.9 million
Chicago’s 14 mayoral candidates have raised a collective total of $28.9 million. Here is a breakdown of how much each has raised as of Feb. 25 and the top donor to each campaign.
7:11 a.m. ‘I just want to be part of the process’
Armed with coffee, Diana Sandoval was among seven people who voted before 6:45 a.m. at Harrison Park in the city’s 25th Ward.
“I just want to be part of the process and make sure my voice counts, hopefully,” Sandoval said.
For Sandoval, 53, sorting through the long list of mayoral candidates and those seeking to replace Ald. Danny Solis felt like picking “the least of all evils.” She wants the newly-elected officials to continue development in Chicago while also keeping safety a priority.
After casting her vote and putting her “I voted” wristband on, Sandoval was headed to her job in suburban Rosemont.
6:40 a.m. Early workers, early voters
The sun had not risen when Antar Mosqueda showed up to cast the first vote at Harrison Park in the city’s Heart of Chicago neighborhood.
Mosqueda, 39, works as a firefighter and had to report to his shift by 6:30 a.m. He was the lone voter in line when the polls opened at 6 a.m. at Harrison Park in the city’s 25th Ward. Mosqueda votes in every election, he said. This time, he was particularly interested in what the next elected officials could do for his neighborhood, which he has called home all his life.
“I want someone to come out here and just (know) it’s important to collect our garbage, see what the neighborhood needs,” Mosqueda said. “So it’s a lot of little things like that that count.
”Five candidates are eyeing the seat held by longtime Ald. Danny Solis in the 25th Ward. Solis announced he was not seeking re-election last year. In the last couple of months, his involvement in a federal corruption investigation involving Ald. Edward Burke has been the subject of news reports.
Mosqueda said he felt the neighborhood needed a change from Solis. He also thought it was important for the next alderman to have experience and be from the neighborhood.
“At the end of the day, it’s us that are living here and we have to deal with the next term that they serve,” Mosqueda said.
6:26 a.m. Light snow on Election Day
The light snow that fell early this Election Day morning in Chicago may resume this afternoon, mainly in areas north of I-80, according to an early morning Tuesday update by the National Weather Service. The high is expected to be 25 degrees.
FROM THE VOTING GUIDE:
Election Day is here. Catch up on what you need to know before voting. »
Which mayoral candidates do you align with? Take this quiz to find out. »
Still need to register? You can do it at your polling place on Election Day »
Candidate profiles: Who are the candidates for mayor of Chicago? »
A printable bedsheet ballot with Tribune Editorial Board’s endorsements »