Voter portraits 2020
WBEZ

PHOTOS: From ‘Hopeful’ To ‘Terrified,’ Here’s How Some Voters In Chicago Are Feeling Right Now

WBEZ
Voter portraits 2020
WBEZ

PHOTOS: From ‘Hopeful’ To ‘Terrified,’ Here’s How Some Voters In Chicago Are Feeling Right Now

As part of the 2020 Citizens’ Agenda project, WBEZ is reporting on the issues you told us you care about most in this year’s elections. We checked in with voters in the Edgewater/Rogers Park neighborhood, an area that has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ahead of what is arguably the most fraught general election in recent memory, WBEZ checked in with the voting public to get a pulse on their hopes, dreams and desires for the future. At the Broadway Armory in Edgewater on a recent afternoon, we interviewed a handful of engaged citizens after they had voted.

Some want to see a change in the White House; others turned out to cast a ballot for local issues. But, from first timers to seasoned constituents, all agreed: Voting this year is an important, even emotional, act.

Here’s what they said. Responses have been edited for clarity.

PJ Walker
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
PJ Walker is a 27-year-old actor, who also has “experience in fitness and in retail.” When it comes to Party, the Edgewater resident said he’s “mostly with the Democrats.”

“This year, voting is different, because you always hear those slogans where people are like, ‘Vote like your life depends on it.’ But no, literally my Black life depends on what happens after this election.

Because as we see, Black and brown bodies have been treated unfairly. And we have to change that, and that starts by getting people out who don’t need to be in. And I know people probably say that every election, but I think everyone can say this election is a little more intense than I think normal elections are. So yeah, voting is very important to me this year, and it was something I knew I had to do early.”

A word that sums up your feelings about the election?

“Triggered — just triggered. I can’t even think past that day. I’m not trying to be overdramatic, but I just think this election is going to affect a lot. So I’m really just, it’s just triggering every time I think about it.”


Jacqueline Carpenter is 87 years old and, despite wearing a mask when she leaves her Edgewater residence, she continues to put on lipstick. She’s not a member of either party, but she said she isn’t enthused by either of the major party candidates.

“I’d think that in a country this large, we could get better candidates. There must be somebody. Bill Gates or someone like that.”

Instead, Carpenter said she was most motivated to vote because of the graduated income tax referendum.

“I didn’t want them to tax me with too much or things like that.”

Damayanti Wallace
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

A word that sums up your feelings about the election?

“A little bit bored.”


PJ Walker
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Erica Peterson-McDaniel is a Rogers Park resident. The 48-year-old Democrat is a mental health worker. She said the way the current administration has handled the coronavirus pandemic was a big determining factor in how she voted this year.

“I tell my son this all the time: Once you step out of the door, everyone is infected. You have to look at everyone as being infected. And the president doesn’t think like that, and we have to tell our children how to live through this coronavirus. It’s very depressing. People are committing suicide, a lot of things are going on. And for him to say, ‘Oh, take bleach, or do this or do that.’ That’s not funny, and some people probably were willing to do that, because this thing is so scary.”

A word that sums up your feelings about the election?

“Nervous. I’m very nervous. And the reason why is because I know Trump has money. And sometimes money goes along with having power. ”


Tracey Burbank, 26, and Ira Grace, 27, live in Andersonville. She’s a theatrical electrician; he’s a carpenter. Both Democrats, they cast ballots in 2016. Grace said he planned to vote no matter what, but the issue that most recently motivated him was the decision to appoint and seat a new Supreme Court justice so close to the election, which he found “depressing.” While he thinks voting is important, he said it’s just one piece of a greater puzzle.

“For me, it’s really just a stopover to try to keep momentum going on change. So it’s kind of depressing to vote this year. But it’s something that we need to do to kind of keep things moving in the right direction.”

For Burbank, she said she sees voting as a way of exercising her privilege, which she hopes to use so that “less privileged voices can be heard as well.”

Ira Grace Tracey Burbank
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

A word that sums up your feelings about the election?

“Depressed,” Grace said.


Patty Michels
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Patty Michels lives in Andersonville, where she has a dog-walking business and also dabbles in pet photography. The 43-year-old Democrat got emotional when talking about what voting means to her this year.

“It’s been a rough four years. And I’m very proud to vote, and I’ve been waiting patiently, voting in every primary and every election since 2016. So it means the world to me, this election … that me and all my friends and everyone I know vote.”

A word that sums up your feelings about the election?

“Hopeful. Hopeful, hopeful, hopeful. We’re going to say hopeful.”


Olivia Masini isn’t a registered member of either party, but the 32-year-old who lives in Edgewater said her work as a healthcare manager and therapist helped inform how she voted.

“I feel like it’s so important for all of our voices to be heard right now. I just feel like our lives actually depend on it. And it’s terrifying at the same time; I feel terrified of the outcome. It’s so confusing. And threatening. So yeah, it’s a roller coaster of emotion.

The things that really matter to me as a social worker, especially, is human rights. So what drives me is to try this, like I said, in my small way to protect human rights.”

Olivia Masini
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

A word that sums up your feelings about the election?

“The first word that came to mind was terrified. But I want to be hopeful. So I’m terrified, yet hopeful.”


Sonny Luca
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Sonny Luca is a 33-year-old musician and father of three who lives in Lakeview. He’s a Democrat but didn’t vote in 2016. That’s part of what drove him to the polls this time around.

“It means a lot more to me this year than it ever has because of where I was headspace-wise in 2016. Although I could let it bring me some shame, it has really motivated me and caused me to be more repatriated than I ever have been. I think I took it for granted — democracy. Words can’t express my dismay and frustration with this current administration. I believe in our country and what it could be more than I ever have.”

A word that sums up your feelings about the election?

“Anxiety.”


Michael Gordon 77, and his wife, Amy, 78, came to the polls in style. The Edgewater dwellers are staunch Democrats. They have each voted in every election throughout their adult life but said they are concerned about what the results of Tuesday’s contest will mean for the country.

Amy Gordon said this election feels different than ones in the past.

“Other elections, my candidate has lost. But the outcome hasn’t been disaster. This time in 2016, my candidate [losing] the outcome was disaster. And I’m terrified for this country if he wins again, so that it does feel different. It feels really existential to me.”

For Michael Gordon, he said this is the first time he has felt “terrified.”

“There have always been presidents I wasn’t happy to be elected, but not like this. I mean, my preferred candidate has hardly ever been elected. Usually, I hold my nose and vote for the Democrat, but I’ve never been terrified. And this vote terrifies me.”

Amy and Michael Gordon
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

A word that sums up your feelings about the election?

“Worried,” Michael said. “Nervous,” Amy added.


Justin Jones
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Justin Jones is a 41-year-old research project manager who lives in Edgewater. He’s not a registered member of either party but never misses an election. As a kid, his dad told him to always go vote “even if the only thing on the ballot is dog catcher.”

“I have a husband. I am worried about not so much our marriage being taken away in Illinois — I think it’ll remain legal here. I’m worried about what the national landscape looks [like].

And I’m not talking about just in the next four years; I’m talking about for the next 40 years and the rest of my life. And so that’s what voting means to me now: is to protect the future from the worst possible outcomes.”

A word that sums up your feelings about the election?

“I can’t think of a word in English that means both hopeful and afraid. I know you wanted one, but it’s hopeful and afraid. Two words.”


Aidan Sullivan voted this year for the first time. The 19-year-old is a student, personal trainer and janitor. Not a registered member of either major party, the Loyola student and Edgewater resident said he’s just happy to be old enough to vote.

“I’m just really excited to be able to cast my ballot for the first time. But also, it’s just a really influential election, so just a lot riding on this. I just feel like my vote is very important.”

Aiden Sullivan
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

A word that sums up your feelings about the election?

“Crazy. Just the absolute insanity that’s going to go down on Tuesday. Whether Biden wins, whether Trump wins, there’s going to be a lot of outrage, and I don’t know what the future holds.”


Courtney Kueppers is a part-time digital producer at WBEZ. Follow her @cmkueppers. Manuel Martinez is a visual journalist at WBEZ. Follow him @DenverManuel. This story was produced for web by Mary Hall and Katherine Nagasawa. Follow them @hall_marye and @Kat_Nagasawa.