North Shore issues voters hit the polls
Kenneth Walter of Wilmette inserts his ballot after voting at St. Augustine's Church in Wilmette on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. | Michael Jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:35AM
Across the suburbs of the North Shore, eager voters took to the polls early on Election Day, many armed with a sense of civic duty and a chance to weigh in on issues they consider personally important. Here’s what Pioneer Press reporters found when they checked in throughout the day.
The parking lot at the Winnetka Presbyterian Church was overflowing, forcing some to park across Willow Road in the residential area just to get in and out quickly.
Corrine Bowman and her granddaughter Lindsay have voted together for years, and cast their ballots Tuesday, both citing the economy as their main concern.
“She had me voting since I turned 18,” said Lindsay, now 23.
“I never miss it,” Corrine said. “It’s something we’re lucky to do.”
Though not quite old enough to vote, Sophie Gerstman, 9, accompanied her mother Linda to the polls as Linda explained to her the voting process.
“It’s our civic responsibility and it’s a pretty big election overall,” Linda said. “It’s important to be a part of the process.
Residents voted on a municipal electric aggregation question at the Northfield firehouse, and had a lot of other issues on their minds.
“I’m concerned about the overall direction of our country,” said Bob Caldwell, who voted with his wife Cindy. “I’m more concerned about my grandchildren.”
Cindy said her main issue was with U.S. foreign policy.
“What happened in Benghazi, I’m pretty fired up about that,” Cindy said.
The cold and rain were not enough to keep Pat Lazar from making the walk from her home across Winnetka Road to the firehouse.
“I think it’s my responsibility to vote,” Lazar said. “I’m like a majority of the people with a little struggle with the economy and taxes here are too high.”
Health care was the main topic of voters casting their ballots at Northbrook Village Hall, although other issues were also on their minds.
“Health is the big issue,” said health care worker Sissie Gerber. “I’m concerned about Medicare and our elderly. There are so many readmissions within 30 days after treatment in hospitals now that it is having a huge impact on doctors and rehabilitation facilities. There are also so many people on public aid now, what can we people in our 50s think lies ahead for us?”
Len Barker agreed.
“Health care,” he said. “I’m worried about cuts in Medicare.”
Don Forester’s main concern was the direction the country has been moving the last four years.
“I’m worried about the deficit, the overall economy and jobs. I don’t believe in the tax and spend philosophy. I believe in capitalism.”
While many were focused on national issues, Alan Ross saw an opportunity for change here at home.
“My main interest is seeing a 99 percent change in the way Illinois works,” he said. “There needs to be a changing of the guard in Illinois.”
Greg Shraeder said “I wish my vote in Illinois counted.”
He said in his business, online higher education, “The U.S. Department of Education has promulgated regulations with no electoral mandate.
“I thought all my friends in the (manufacturing) and banking businesses were crazy. Then they did it to me.”
He said he blamed Obama – his choice in 2008 – and voted Republican Tuesday.
“I did this today,” he said, “and it hurt me to do it.”
Ellen Klein had been torn between Obama and Romney.
“I want what is right for our country, but I want what is right for Israel, too,” she said.
But after talking with friends, she said she decided that Obama was the right man, for both reasons, because Obama exerts pressure on Israel that is more likely to lead to peace.
Cook County Election Judge Janis Harman said the bulging ballot box door at Park Center in Glenview had to be taped shut.
“For turnout, this has been as big an election as any, including both Bush elections and Ronald Reagan’s first run for president. This could be bigger,” she said, pointing at the door with ballots peeping out the edges.
“The ballot box usually has 25-30 ballots at a time, but this is now holding about 250.”
Other judges at Park Center appeared slightly spent from the morning rush that peaked at 8:45 a.m.
With 973 registered voters in precinct 52, by noon 544 had already cast votes with seven hours left until polls closed at Park Center.
Gail Kotin helped her mother vote at Park Center and was walking out into the cold noon drizzle on Chestnut Avenue.
“I’m here because voting is my American civic duty. That’s what’s most important. The rest is private,” she said, laughing.
As a nurse, Mary Infantino’s main issue was health care.
“There are not enough hospital nurses, which increases risk to patients through errors,” she said at Pleasant Ridge School in Glenview.
Infantino later called the Pioneer Press newsroom in Glenview to further express concern.
“The cutbacks on medical reimbursements have hurt hospitals, and they survive on bedside nurses,” she said.
Boris Verkholaz is a nursing student at Harper College, in Palatine.
“I want affordable health and easily obtainable heath care,” he said at Pleasant Ridge. “My second big issue is more equal rights and opportunities for women and gay people and for gay people who want to get married. Just stronger rights for everyone.”
Andy Dylewski, a music producer, voted for President Barack Obama.
A public television program on Obama and challenger Mitt Romney provided Dylewski with useful biographies on both men.
“Obama went through tough times when young, and he gained my respect. He has integrity and a willingness to help people, I think,” he said after voting at Rugen Park.
“I don’t blame Mitt for being a Mormon, but Mormonism as a religious group just doesn’t fit me.”
In central Wilmette, lines of people waiting to vote at Precincts 31 and 35 were at the doors of St. Augustine’s Church when polls opened at 6 a.m., Precinct Judge Bill Fox Jr. said.
Fox, of Glenview, is a former Wilmette resident who has been a judge for more than 20 years. He estimated that 15 percent of the 1,082 registered voters in Precinct 31 had already voted.
Anwar Hussaini of Lincolnwood was manning the judge’s table with Fox. He was working his second or third election, he said, “because it’s a way to give back to the community.”
“In this work you learn to keep your mind open, you learn that common sense isn’t common, and that diplomacy is key,” Hussaini said as he handed out ballots.
Across the room, at Precinct 35, Tom Van Heule, of Wilmette, another veteran judge, said turnout among his 615 registered voters, was low. That may have been because so many voted early, he said.
As he left the church, Wilmette resident John Kime, who said he voted for Democrats, said “it’s pretty much your one guaranteed chance to have a choice in your own future. We’re all inflicted with the winners and the losers even if we don’t vote, so we might as well vote.”
Wilmette residents Avery and Patricia Stone voted at Precinct 35 shortly after 9 a.m. This year, Avery said, he was upset at being “gerrymandered” out of the 10th Congressional District into the 9th District, but he voted nonetheless.
“No question about it. How else can I voice my disappointment?” he said, before joking that his status as a former Chicagoan “means that after I die, I’ll get to vote again.”
A little further west, at Wilmette Junior High School, Precinct 17 judges were greeted at 5:30 a.m. “by a guy sitting in his car, reading his newspaper, waiting to vote,” Judge Bill McGuire said.
By 11 a.m., 189 of the precinct’s 991 registered voters had cast ballots. Northbrook resident Mary Hauser, who’s served as a judge for a decade, said the polling place was much more busy than it had been four years ago.
All of the Precinct 17 judges had been up for hours by the time they spoke to a reporter; Chicagoan Ebony Harvey, serving her sophomore term as a judge, got up at 3:30 a.m. to make sure she got to her appointed place by 5 a.m.
Judges and voters alike at the junior high school looked askance at non-voters.
“In our house we tell the kids, ‘There’s no beefing if you don’t vote,’” McGuire said.
Loyal Republican voter Charlie Nunemaker said he had never missed a vote – he even votes in judge’s races, voting ‘no’ on every sitting judge as a matter of policy, he said.
Alan Berliant also voted at Precinct 17. He said people may have been turned off by overwhelmingly negative political ad campaigns, “but they should still vote. In our country it’s a privilege. They should take the time to learn.”
Even further west, at Loyola Academy, veteran Wilmette judge Michael Wick predicted that 75 percent of the precinct’s voters would have exercised their franchise by 7 p.m.
Beverly Coleman, who said she was normally an independent, voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney: “I don’t think the president has been truthful with us.”
She worried that young people would vote without doing enough research into candidates, but said it was important for them to get into the habit of voting.
Blake MacLeod, who voted at Precinct 40 shortly before noon, said he did so “because people fought and gave their lives so that we would have the right to vote. I think it’s disrespectful of them not to vote.”
MacLeod, who emigrated from Canada, said he has been voting ever since he became a citizen.
In Kenilworth, people who voted at the Church of the Holy Comforter, in one of the village’s two precincts (22 and 23), were not only deciding on presidential or local races, they were voting on the village’s home rule referendum question.
The referendum might have brought a few more people out, Judge Julia Szafranski said, but all the races were attracting interest. Szafranski, who has been a judge for 50 years, said Tuesday was the busiest day she had seen in that time.
Of the 1,149 people registered to vote in Precinct 23, 228 had already turned out she said, “and usually we get that number all day.” Kenilworth resident Tina Labate said she was proud to vote for President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden: “It’s part of my obligation as a citizen. It’s my responsibility, and a way to take part in the government of my country.” She also voted ‘no’ on the home rule referendum, she said.
Sheryl Wall said she was equally proud to support Mitt Romney, “even though I know that Illinois will go to Obama. I wanted to let Mr. Romney know that he had my vote.”
Murray Lessinger acknowledged the large number of early voters, but said he liked voting “in real time. There’s something exciting about participating on Election Day.”
At the polling place at Glencoe Central School, neurosurgeon Jon Citow identified himself as a one-time Obama backer who’d changed his mind.
“How can you have health care reform without tort reform?” asked Glencoe neurosurgeon Jon Citow. “I voted for Obama in ‘08, but this time?” He smiled and shook his head.