Long line for early voting at Oak Park village hall

Technical issues with county voting machines slow progress


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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

Early voting has started in Cook County as of Oct. 19. The early birds who showed up to vote at Oak Park village hall Monday morning saw long lines, technical problems and emergency vehicles, after a woman collapsed on the sidewalk near the throng of voters.

 Mask-wearing voters stood in socially distanced lines stretching all around the building. Some people even brought portable chairs to sit in. When doors opened at 8:30 a.m., a line of 157 people had already assembled.

The line, which Village Clerk Vicki Scaman called "insane," quickly lengthened as village staff and poll workers struggled to keep things moving amid technological problems.

Brian Butler, who had been waiting in line for an hour and 45 minutes, said his part of the line hadn't received an explanation for the holdup. Butler doesn't usually early vote, but said he decided to vote early in the hopes of avoiding lines.

 Four of the seven laptops supplied by Cook County failed to connect to the scanner needed to program the plastic cards needed for voters to insert into the voting machines, according to Scaman. Due to this error, voters were only able to use three of the 14 voting machines, also supplied by Cook County, Scaman said.

"The entire country has known that there was going to be an unbelievable turnout in this election and for the state to not be prepared is disappointing," said Sarah Myata, who had been waiting for two hours. 

Myata said she has voted early in past elections, but never had to wait in line to do so until now.

"I do think the turnout is great," said Myata.

In response to COVID-19, the village has taken several precautions for early voting, including sanitizing each station after each voter and lining people up outside of village hall.

"Being a healthcare provider, I was encouraged that we would have to wait outside more to limit the amount of people inside the building at once," said Myata.

Martha Ekwurtzel, who arrived at 7:30 a.m. and finished voting at about 10:25 a.m., didn't think the wait too terrible.

"Everyone was in good spirits," said Ekwurtzel. "I'd say the experience was still very pleasant, even though it took quite a while."

The monotony of waiting was unfortunately interrupted at about 10:30 a.m., when a woman, who looked to be in her 60s or 70s, lost consciousness, fell and hit her head hard on the concrete in front of people waiting to vote. Witnesses said the woman was walking along the sidewalk and appeared to be struggling to breathe before her collapse.

Alarmed, village staff and voters called out to see if anyone was a doctor or nurse. Emergency medical technicians performed CPR on the woman, whose face grew increasingly purple, and transferred her onto a stretcher, as police officers took statements from witnesses. An ambulance transported the woman to a hospital for treatment. Police could not confirm which hospital nor the woman's condition at this time. The woman is not believed to have been at village hall for voting.

After the police cars, ambulance and firetruck left, people's attentions returned to voting. Yolanda Taylor, who said she had been waiting in line for over two hours, was concerned with the lack of volunteers to help with voting.

"There's not enough people volunteering," Taylor said.

Taylor said she saw elderly people who were confused about where to go for early voting and people in wheelchairs struggling to get up the ramps – situations she believed that could have been avoided with more volunteers.

"I literally had to pull somebody back up the ramp because they couldn't get up," Taylor said. "We could definitely do better than this."

By noon, the county had repaired the technical issues and all voting stations were in working order. Things started to move more steadily after that, with the line of people waiting to vote marginally shorter than that morning.

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Reader Comments

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Lisa Wilkinson  

Posted: October 22nd, 2020 11:37 AM

Just FYI, for early voting you can vote anywhere in suburban Cook County (not in the city). Almost no lines (so far) at Elmwood Park Civic Center and Cicero Community Center.

Christine Pastor  

Posted: October 20th, 2020 8:41 PM

@Jeff Schroeder My experience exactly. Election Day lines never exceeded 20 minutes in the 25 years I have voted in Oak Park.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: October 19th, 2020 10:17 PM

Its funny, but in all the years I have lived in Oak Park I have never had trouble voting on the actual election day. I just take an early lunch and sneak over there around 11:00 AM. There are more booths to use and the judges are more experienced. Your vote counts just the same.

Rachel Pildis from Oak Park  

Posted: October 19th, 2020 7:12 PM

No wait for ballot drop off! There is a drop box in the courtyard and an election judge verifying that the envelope is filled out before you drop it in. It took us under a minute.

Susan Beyersdorf Beach from Forest Park  

Posted: October 19th, 2020 6:47 PM

Consider the Maybrook courthouse. Check online for hours, but I think the lines may be shorter. They were for us last week. Much gratitude for all of those that waited so long and voted!

Marcile Jones  

Posted: October 19th, 2020 6:44 PM

I waited about an hour to vote early in the 2018 election. The woman in front of me said, " Don't think of it as waiting in line; think of it as protesting."

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: October 19th, 2020 6:32 PM

I voted at my dining room table. Took all of 5 minutes. Then I mailed my ballot. I have the time to stand in line all day if I want to, but I don't. Just get an absentee ballot.

Jeff Evans  

Posted: October 19th, 2020 6:12 PM

Just so you know, the village has no role in ensuring laptops are in working order. That would be the responsibility of the Cook County Clerk's office. If you have a beer with the situation, it's with them.

Ara Tekian from Oak Park  

Posted: October 19th, 2020 5:59 PM

I was in line at 7:45 AM, and at 10:00 AM when there were at least more than 50 people in front of me, an officer/lady came and told us that there are only 4 laptops, and three of them are not functional. Therefore there was only one laptop left to register the people in line. Furthermore, she said that you need to wait at least an hour or more to get inside. At that point I decided to leave. This was a SHAME for Oak Park Village not to be prepared for such emergencies.

Roy Plotnick  

Posted: October 19th, 2020 5:52 PM

Will we have to wait online to use the dropbox?

Kline Maureen  

Posted: October 19th, 2020 2:59 PM

it's not too late to request a vote by mail ballot - here's the link: https://mailvoting.cookcountyclerkil.gov/ - - (just in case - I'm hoping these are mostly "first day" glitches and the line for early in-person voting won't be as bad later in the week)

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: October 19th, 2020 2:01 PM

Thanks for this coverage, WJ. Allowed me to avoid the hassle today.

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