Chicago, suburbs head to polls; investigators on hand

February 22, 2011

by Sam Hudzik and Emily Wilensky

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(Flickr/Andy Marfia)

Election Day is finally here. Voters in Chicago and a handful of suburbs can go to the polls from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.
 
A little over five months ago when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley dropped the big news, saying, "I will not seek a seventh term as mayor of the city of Chicago."
 
It set off the biggest city election in two decades. This is the first Chicago mayoral election since 1947 with no sitting mayor on the ballot.
 
Chicago voters will also pick a new city clerk, and there are multiple candidates in 43 out of the 50 aldermanic races.
 
In any of those contests, if no single candidate wins more than 50 percent today, the top two vote getters will advance to a runoff election on April 5th.
 
Also today, there are a spattering of suburban races for trustee and alderman in Dolton, South Holland, North Chicago and Waukegan.
 
Meanwhile, Chicago election officials say they are stepping up efforts to deal with any problems on Election Day. Langdon Neal is chairman of the election board.
 
He says over 300 investigators will be on hand to respond to any concerns about electioneering in campaign-free zones.
 
“Many of our candidates and especially our neophyte candidates may not quite understand how that works and how vigorously we defend that,” he said. “So that’s one of the reasons we have an extra number of investigators available to protect our voters in and out and in front of the polling place.”
 
In Illinois it's illegal to campaign within 100 feet of a polling place. Officials say if electioneers refuse to leave campaign-free zones they can be arrested. One area that election officials will be keeping a close eye on is the 24th ward where there are 18 candidates on the ballot.
 
“We’ll have a lot of investigators in and around the 24th ward,” Neal said. “When we have wards with a large number of candidates that signals to us to pay special attention to those areas.”
 
Neal told reporters that he predicts there will be runoffs at least half of the 43 contested aldermanic races.