Wednesday, February 28, 2007

City of Chicago's Election Day

Yesterday was Election Day for the city municipal elections. I had the opportunity to work as a polling place administrator. My day started out very early, I had to report to the polling place at 5 am and I had to stay there until the end. My job was to set up the equipment, in addition, to make sure that the equipment was running properly, if a minor problem in the machines occurred I had to make repairs and at the end of the night, I had to consolidate total votes from the machines and transmit the results to the election central. The location where I was placed to work was at 1111 North Dearborn, it was 42nd ward and 60th precinct. Prior to working there, I was not familiar with this ward. I didn’t know any of the candidates that were running, I think that’s one of the reasons that my experience working there turned out to be different from what I had expected because in my ward, I was familiar with all of these candidates running.

Election Day started out slow and it stayed steady and slow the entire day. I was surprised to see how low the voter turnout was. There were about 400 registered voters that were assigned to vote in the precinct where I was working, only under a 100 showed up vote. During the day the poll watchers came by, they informed us that throughout the city, the voter turnout was low. I was actually surprised to hear that because before serving the election, I thought more people would go and vote because city officials like the city mayor and ward alderman directly deal with issues that individuals encounter in their everyday lives, for instance, fighting crimes in their neighborhoods, improving their district’s educational system, street maintenance and also issues that needs immediate actions. However, from the low voter turnout, it looked as if people didn’t think that it was important to go vote or they were not aware that it was Election Day.

Another common trend that I noticed was that majority of the voters that came in were middle aged and senior citizens. In the recent years, with all of these campaigns out there encouraging young people to vote, I thought that some small percent of the voters would be young adults. There are number of reasons as to why the voter turnout was low. It could be that people were not familiar with the aldermanic candidates that were running in their ward; as a result, they probably thought that it was not as vital as the presidential elections, thus their vote would not make a difference. A shocking situation occurred, where one voter came in to vote and after looking at the ballot said that they had never heard of the two aldermanic candidates that were running (Brendan Reilly and Burton F. Natarus). Another reason could be that maybe in the 42nd ward candidates didn’t do a great job campaigning before the election.

Overall, serving in the election was a good learning experience. Now, I feel more informed about the voting process. I was startled to see that there was a way of voting for everyone even for people with permanent disability. Majority of the young people have no idea how the election process works but I am glad I got the chance to see it first hand. I think it is crucial for young adults to take an active part in the political realm. Sometimes, the best to understand the importance of something is to become a part of it.


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