Long lines at polls as Illinoisans vote

People wait in line to vote on Election Day morning in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. Nam Y. Huh, The Associated Press

People wait in line to vote on Election Day morning in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. Nam Y. Huh, The Associated Press

By Jim Suhr

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. – Whether they were voting for Obama, McCain or – in one case – Palin, Illinoisans encountered few problems Tuesday despite potential record turnout in some areas and long lines at polling places.

With unseasonably warm weather, voting was heavy in Chicago and its suburbs. In Champaign County, home to a sprawling University of Illinois campus, long early lines at many polling places gave way to smooth, orderly voting by mid morning.

Reported glitches generally were scattered and small as voters waited to cast ballots for Democratic home state Sen. Barack Obama or Republican Sen. John McCain.

Chicago election officials say they removed three election judges: One was abusive, one was drunk and one woman was arrested for impersonating an election judge, Chicago Election Board chairman Langdon Neal said. Police said Tuesday night that charges were pending against the woman.

By midday, the Illinois State Board of Elections had received hundreds of calls to its Election Day bank of phone lines.

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“It’s been ringing constantly all day,” said Dan White, the board’s executive director. But aside from people confirming where they should vote and reports of some lines, he said, “there are virtually no significant problems.”

Voters formed lines as dawn broke outside small-town polling places in Warren County in western Illinois. Though crowds thinned as the day wore on, county clerk Tina Conard expected the turnout to easily pass the 60 percent she sees of most presidential elections.

“I think we’re going to be … at least 75 percent,” she said.

In Champaign, Shirley Goin, 71, told a reporter she voted for “Palin,” referring to McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who would be the country’s first female vice president. “Oh, and McCain,” she said after a pause, saying an Obama presidency could be “disastrous.”

“All these other programs Obama says he wants to institute are going to bankrupt us,” she said.

In the wealthy Chicago suburb of Kenilworth, Bill Whitt, 44, says he admires Obama but believes he’s “too much of a classic big government liberal.” He agrees with McCain on many economic policies but thinks the 72-year-old senator from Arizona is too old and has shown “erratic judgment” during the campaign. So Whitt went with libertarian candidate Bob Barr.

University of Illinois student Marjaneh Ghasemi called Obama “the lesser of two evils” and gave that senator her support in Champaign Tuesday when she voted with one issue in mind: the United States’ relationship with Iran, home to many of her relatives.

“I feel like McCain is like, ‘We’ll go to war with Iran.’ Since I’m Iranian, it’s better for me to have less chance to go to war with my own family,” said Ghasemi, a 20-year-old junior from Bloomington, Ill., who’s studying molecular biology with an eye on medical school.

In Cairo, a struggling Ohio River town on Illinois’ southern tip, car dealer Jack Guetterman said he voted Tuesday for McCain because he doesn’t trust Obama on taxes.

“They can say I’m not raising taxes, but they can raise something else. Those politicians can put fees on small businesses that nobody sees, and it ends up being passed on to the consumer anyway,” said Guetterman, 57 and a registered Democrat. “I feel (McCain) is the most honest person of the two.”

In Superman’s adopted hometown of Metropolis, the Massac County community along the Ohio River, floral shop manager Lisa Gower, 48, voted for President Bush the past two elections but sided with Obama this time.

“I think McCain would do a good job. He’s trustworthy, honest and everything you’d hope for,” the mother of two teenagers said. “I’m just hoping for change.”