Champaign voters have mixed experiences at polls

Carol Matteucci

Carol Matteucci

By Nate Sandstrom

Despite the fears among some that crowded polling places and new election rules would cause long delays, many voters in Champaign said they found the voting process relatively easy, though some encountered trouble.

Stacy Gaylord, a student in LAS, said she was turned away from voting at the Rehabilitation Education Center, and witnessed five others who were also turned away. She said she attempted to use an envelope from a letter she received from State Representative Naomi Jakobbson that claimed it could be used as a secondary from of identification, but was only able to vote after she returned with a copy of her lease.

Terry Rathacher, an election judge at the site, said many students mistakenly believed the letter could be used as identification, and that they had to leave and return with different paper work to prove their current address.

“We’ve bent over backwards to let people have a chance to vote,” Rathacher said.

Rathracher said that of the 960 votes that were received at the precinct, only 11 people did not return to vote.

Many voters at the University YMCA said they were satisfied with their experience. Graduate student Yash Gad showed up early and said he had no problems.

Daniel Jeng, junior in communications, said it took him less than 30 minutes, but the lines were getting longer as he came out. Shortly after 2 p.m., it extended almost out the door onto Wright Street.

At Daniels Residence Hall, the lines were less of a problem. Law student Atif Irfan said voting took him about five minutes and that the location was convenient. Irfan, from Michigan, had one complaint, saying the ballots in Illinois seemed “a little bit outdated.”

At both locations groups stood just past the signs reading “No electioneering beyond this point.”

Outside the University YMCA, representatives from the Democratic, Republican and Green parties handed out literature.

Brian Ruzik, a University alumnus, handed out free cheeseburgers along with literature for Republican state representative candidate Deb Feinen. Ruzik, who said he had been volunteering for the Feinen campaign for a couple of months, added that the last few days have been grueling.

“I’ve had one hour of sleep the past two days,” he said.

Anna Creswell, an Illini Media employee and a volunteer for Naomi Jakobsson who handed out literature outside of Daniels Residence Hall, said she had also lost some sleep. She said she had been up since 4 a.m. and handing out fliers in front of the residence hall since 10 a.m.

“It’s been really exciting,” she said of volunteering for the campaign. She said she felt the crowd had been “steady,” and that an election judge had told her the numbers of voters were very high this year.

Off campus too, a few problems did arise. At the Bresnan Meeting Center, some people encountered problems. They said an individual who had changed addresses caused lines to back up out the door.

“It’s a mess,” said Sharon Peterson, an office manager in Urbana, who said she waited more than 20 minutes. “I think the judges didn’t know what they were doing.”

“I feel they’re really unorganized,” said Champaign resident Mark Williams. He said that after they dealt with the address problem, the line moved a little faster.

Carl Lund, Champaign resident, had no complaints and said he expected the wait to be much longer.

Down the road, however, voters at the Champaign Church of Christ were able to walk up without waiting and no voters expressed frustration.

At Garden Hills Baptist Church, no voters said they had trouble voting, though a few were unsure whether they were supposed to vote at the church or the school across the street.

Mark Hewitt, an election judge at the church, said he was not worried about voters being confused. He said it was the same system used by absentee ballots, and that election judges are able to help voters with questions.

Judy Moll, a poll watcher for Sierra Club, expressed concern about the different ballot used in the handicap-accessible voting booth.

The ballot differed from others in that voters had to match their punch card to a key instead of having the names next to the buttons they would press to select a candidate.

A record number of visitors to the Champaign County Clerk’s Web site caused occasional crashes to its server, making it inaccessible at times.

“We’ve never seen this kind of traffic,” said Luke Stowe, technology specialist for the Champaign County Clerk.

He said they received 9,000 visitors on Monday and was expecting the number to be even higher by the end of Election Day.

Stowe said there was little break for the Web site because they were getting “slammed” by people checking their registration status or looking for their polling places during the day. He said he expected traffic to stay busy from people following election results as they came in Tuesday night.