As about half of Chicago’s voters are headed to new voting sites for mid-term elections, polling stations have opened before sunrise on a crisp Tuesday.

Voters throughout the state of Illinois will elect their governor, the junior US senator, and all 17 Illinois representatives to the US Congress, and decide on other key races and issues that can be found in the Tribune’s election guide.

William Harris, 60, left to vote before 7am at New Bethlehem’s # 4 MB Church on the South Side. He said rising crime in the city was an issue that drew him to the polls. Another couple said their impetus was the right to vote. Angela Lovett wanted to vote in person on the site but was told she needed to have her ballot paper in hand. Lovett said she had to hurry to work before she could mail the ballot paper later.

“The economy, inflation, all the turmoil and frustration of the recent times are what set me apart in the polls,” said Joyce Little, 75, who added that she was paying close attention to the governor’s race. “We have the right to vote, why not vote? Our ancestors died for the law. I always vote.

Election officials are aiming for a calmer day after the tumultuous June 28 primary election. Shortage of electoral judges saw 56 Chicago poles and six outposts open in the Cook County suburbs on the same day.

In the state as a whole, only 21.7% of voters voted on June 28, compared with 26.5% in the 2018 mid-term election. State Electoral Council spokesman Matt Dietrich estimates that Tuesday’s elections turn out to be around 50%, based on historical data.

Chicago Election Commission chairman Marisel Hernandez said on Monday she hoped Chicago would beat the 2018 turnout.

However, Chicago faces the possibility of widespread confusion after nearly half of the city’s voters were allocated new polling places in the three months leading up to the election.

In line with the new map of municipalities, and in an effort to save money on the cost of election operations, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners slashed nearly 40% of the constituencies since the primaries. This increased the number of voters in the constituency and lowered the number of polling stations that can hold multiple constituencies, from 1,043 in the primary election to 944 on Tuesday.

The drastic changes so close to the election met with criticism and resulted in a lawsuit filed by Chicago mayor candidate Willie Wilson, which his team of lawyers later voluntarily dismissed. Chicago election officials said they had no choice when to move and said all voters should have received a postal notification of their new assignments at polling stations.

The cuts made it easier for Chicago election officials to reach the precincts. The council has a surplus of electoral judges for Tuesday, said Max Bever, a spokesman for the Chicago Election Council. The council said on Monday it has appointed more than 7,000 electoral judges, but only needs 6,450 to be fully filled. More than 1,200 of these judges are high school students from a board partnership with Mikva Challenge, an organization dedicated to youth development and civic education.

Kendra Cowan, 36, has served as an election judge since the age of 18. An Oak Lawn resident serves as a judge at the Ridge Lawn School in Chicago Ridge. She said there was a 6am voting line at her location but at 7am the electronic voting card reader broke. The machine counted 27 votes cast before reading the error. Tech hotline calls haven’t reached 8:30 am yet. Voters cast ballots with markers.

“People love their electronic touchscreens and like it when the reader says vote,” she said. “They don’t like tags because they tend to ooze.”

First-time observer of the survey, Rich Schwier, said he tried to call the numbers provided due to technical problems, but was still using the automated system. One of the female residents, who arrived at the Chicago Ridge polling station at 6am, returned after 8am to cast her vote after running errands.

Election coordinator Melissa Thornley of Norwood Park spoke to the polling station on the phone, solving some technical issues, none of which were foreign to her in her third polls.

“I really appreciate how difficult this process is,” she said, noting that little hiccups at the beginning of the day were common. “But democracy continues.”

She oversaw a poll at the Independence Library in Irving Park, one of the polling stations that appeared on the Internet since June 28. She said that with the recent changes to the city map, she had seen voters come who had to be redirected to other locations.

One couple came after visiting a nearby polling station that had been closed since the primaries, Thornely said. She described them as slightly annoyed as they still had to be redirected to a new location.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said signage posted at closed polling stations would include information about the correct polling station. Instead, the characters contain a QR code for voters to check your allocations online.

Thornely said she is grateful that people are polite despite having to relocate them. She was upset by the press she had seen about angry voters across the country who believed false claims of electoral fraud. Indeed, some election officials across the state have taken precautionary measures since 2020, and Chicago Superintendent David Brown said police would check polling stations on Tuesday and keep polling stations and early voting venues safe.

Long lines wrapped around the block at Chicago’s early voting sites and even made some voters give up on waiting. At the early voting site at the Merlo Library in Chicago’s Lakeview district, some voters waited up to 2.5 hours on Monday afternoon.

Site administrator Vito Cifaldi said the long lines started on Saturday and remained steady throughout the weekend. Despite the expectation, Cifaldi said most of the people who went inside were understanding and kind.

For voters who show up at the wrong polling station, the Tribune has a guide on what to do. Voters with questions or problems may also call the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners at 312-269-7870.

Jake Sheridan contributed to this report.

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