Voters motivated to come out to the polls
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org November 6, 2012 9:42AM
Voters cast their ballots early on the morning of Nov. 6, 2012, in Evergreen Park. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 8, 2012 6:28AM
Kathie Saldana didn’t vote in the 2008 presidential election because she didn’t like either candidate.
“My vote means everything to me this time,” the 66-year-old Tinley Park woman said.
That sentiment was echoed throughout the Southland on Tuesday, as voters passionate about their positions weighed in as they showed up at the polls morning, noon and night.
Four of Saldana’s eight grown children are out of work. Some are in danger of losing their homes.
“Everyone voted for (President Barack) Obama last time because they said we needed a change,” she said. “This time I voted for (Mitt) Romney because we need another change.”
Driven by duty, frustration, anger and a general sense of fed-upness, many hit the polls early Tuesday.
At Faith Christian Reformed Church in Tinley Park, 20-year-old Matt O’Boyle voted in his first presidential election.
“I voted for Obama because Romney has been proven to be dishonest. You can’t have someone in the office who is not honest,” said O’Boyle, who recently enlisted with the U.S. military in hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL. “This election is hugely important. My whole future depends on it.”
Voting kicked off at 6 a.m. under sunny skies. Few complained about the frigid 40-degree temperatures, given the conditions voters on the east coast are dealing with.
“It’s rough for them,” said Phil West, of Tinley Park. “I appreciate that they’re trying to accommodate those voters as best they can.”
Courtney Greve, spokesperson for Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office, said voting was going according to plan. Polls operned on time and there were no reports of any equipment breakdowns, she said.
“No reports of any problems at this point,” she said, adding the office did not expect any precincts to stay open late.
Similarly, voting got off to a good start in Will County, said County Clerk Nancy Voots. Polling places opened on time, machines were operating properly.
Voots said she expects turnout to be heavy, but not as bad as in 2008, thanks to the high number of people who chose to vote early.
“Basically, the only calls we’re getting are from people wanting to know where their polls are,” she said.
Chet Labus, 58, said this presidential election is even more important than the last.
“The country’s changing. I want to make sure that it’s heading in the right direction for the next four years,” he said.
The Tinley Park accountant hopes his vote for Romney will ensure that.
“We kind of take voting for granted sometimes. But it’s important to vote in every election because you just never know, your vote may make the difference,” he said.
Jeff Taylor, vice president of sales for Consolidated Carqueville Printing Co., said he expects Romney will take the honors this year.
“Because of the state of the economy,” he said. “Unemployment is very high; we need more permanent jobs.”
He bemoaned the fact that so much money is spent on caucuses and political pacs. “Why not use those millions of dollars to put people back to work?” he said.
Though they disagreed on who would make the best president, voters polled were in absolute agreement about the tone of this year’s campaigning.
“This year was the worst,” said Denise Arkus, who works for a relocation company. “I think the candidates do it on purpose, to daze and confuse voters. In the end, you still don’t get any information.”
Arkus said she turned to the AARP website for informaiton about candidate’s platforms.
“It was pretty beneficial,” she said.
Cindy O’Boyle said she watched every debate because “they were more entertaining” than informative.
“This season was totally nastier than any other,” she said. “I’m glad it’s over.”
At the Orland Park Civic Center, Greg Perkins, of Orland Park, said he voted for Obama “because he did the majority of what he said he was going to do” despite staunch Republican opposition to many of the his plans and programs.
“No matter who wins, hopefully, we’ll get past that,” he said of the animosity between the parties.
Obama deserves four more years, he said.
“Based on where we were four years ago, he needs additional time to complete his platform,” Perkins said.
A developer, Perkins said he’s “lost millions in the real estate market” since 2008.
“But there’s not just one person to blame. It’s not about how many times you fall. It’s about how you get back up. If everybody does what they’re supposed to do, I think the economy will turn around,” Perkins said.
Turnout was better than 2008, election judge Debbi Zakrajsek said inside the Orland Park Civic Center, where voters from four precincts cast ballots.
“I’ve seen a lot of young voters, eager for their first time voting,” the Orland Park woman said.
There was a steady stream of voters all day, she said. She expected a big turnout after 5 p.m., as many people vote after work.
“I’m sure we’ll be here at least an hour after the polls close at 7 o’clock,” she said.
Colleen Witt, of Orland Park, said she could not vote for Obama after what she’s seen the past four years.
“I’m not happy with Obama at all. The economy is beyond bad. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the economy if he’s re-elected. I’m very scared. It’s not getting any better,” Witt said.
The state’s pension crisis was on her mind, too, she said.
“It’s (House Speaker Michael) Madigan’s shenanigans, but I’m concerned. There has to be some type of reform,” she said.
John Arnold, 64, of Orland Park, and his son, John Arnold Jr., 33, both voted for Obama.
“I did because I’m a senior citizen and I’m afraid that Romney’s going to take everything away from me that I paid for all these years,” the elder Arnold said.
He’s not thrilled with Romney’s idea of investing Social Security money in a 401k.
“If they had done that when I was 16, OK, but not now,” he said.
The choice was obvious for his son, an autoworker at the Ford stamping plant in Chicago Heights.
“I had to vote for Obama. Absolutely. There’s no question in my mind. Romney, when all that was going down, he wanted to get rid of the auto industry. To get rid of the auto industry would kill everything, hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he said.
The younger Arnold is “shocked that they’re saying the race is so close.”
Local issues didn’t weigh heavily with father or son. But the elder Arnold addressed the issue of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who did little campaigning as he dealt with health issues.
“I don’t think he should be in office any more,” Arnold said.
Standing in the rain outside the Orland Park Civic Center at 3 p.m., Dr. Barbara Bellar, the Republican candidate for state senate in the 18th District, handed out fliers to voters. She wore a clear plastic ponch and a bright red boxing glove that read “Punch 22,” her spot on the ballot.
“It’s keeping me warm, too,” she said.
“What am I hearing? ‘We voted for you. We voted for you.’ And I appreciate that,” she said.
No surprise, Bellar voted a straight Republican ticket.
Some voters talked about their frustration with the state pension dilemma, she said.
Bellar started the day at the Metra station at 103rd Street in Chicago’s 19th Ward, and visited a couple of polling places before Orland Park.
Flossmoor resident Chaundra Harrison said she was voting for Obama because of his support of equal pay for women.
“I’ve worked in corporate America and I’m sure I didn’t make as much as my male counterparts,” Harrison said. “I want my daughter to have the same opportunities to make the same amount of money as the person next to her.”
Rebecca Pugh, of Flossmoor, said she was voting for Obama.
“I think he understands a lot more of the population,” Pugh said. “I don’t think Mr. Romney understands or listens to people who are not exactly like him.”
Pugh also said she wasn’t voting for Jackson.
“He voted absentee, and for him to not physically vote, it makes me worried about him being present for the next couple of years,” Pugh said. “And he might have a lot coming up to deal with in the next couple of years.”
Michael Donovan, of Flossmoor, said he was voting for Romney. He didn’t vote for Obama or John McCain in the 2008 presidential election because he was upset about McCain’s vice presidential choice, Sarah Palin.
“I think Romney is more equipped to fix the economy and create more jobs,” Donovan said.
Donovan said he also voted in favor of the ballot measure that makes it harder for governmental bodies to increase retirement and pension benefits.
“I think the state has a fiscal problem,” Donovan said. “It’s pathetic. We have the biggest unfunded pension plan in the country.”
Donovan said his most important vote was for Republican Brian Woodworth, the challenger to Jackson.
“What worries me is if Jackson gets elected and then the FBI indicts him and takes him to trial and then what?” Donovan said.
The heated presidential race was foremost on the minds of voters and the phrase “we need a change” was echoed as they left the New Lenox VFW polling place on Old Hickory Road.
Russ Curtis said he voted for Romney because he didn’t like Obamacare.
Carol McMorrow simply said, “I think we need a change.”
Rick Beatty, a tradesman, said he voted because he loves America, but declined to say whom he picked for president. His key issues were the mortgage crisis and unemployment. He said the president kept him in his home, but he was “disappointed” that Obama and Congress failed to work together.
“They are both to blame,” he said. “They should repeal NAFTA, not Obamacare. That’s what contributed to unemployment.”
Beatty also was disappointed that state Rep. Renee Kosel was running unopposed.
Voters also were concerned about state and local issues.
Cathy Bianchi, of Mokena, voted against the state constitutional amendment, saying she comes from a family of teachers and police officers.
“How dare they?” she said of the proposal to require a three-fifths majority vote to increase any pension benefits.
Other voters said they did not want to see U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) represent Will County, and did not want their local government choosing their electrical provider..
Contributing: Steve Metsch, Susan DeMar Lafferty and Casey Toner