In Hyde Park, the stream of voters is steady

Early long lines at William H. Ray Elementary School (for precincts 8, 27, 30 and 52) had faded by 10:30 a.m.

Poll watchers Roger Huff and Arnold Johnson say early line management problems and booth shortages had been mitigated and the turnaround time for most voters was about 15 minutes. 

The site is vote-central for about 900 University of Chicago students (precinct 27) whose dormitory is in the precinct, as well as about 800 other people who live in the Hyde Park neighborhood. 

U of C student Padma Sheila Rajagopal, 20, says she was voting in her first election at the precinct because she felt her vote wouldn't make a difference in her home state, Maryland.

She decided to do her research for the election, even going so far as to figure out which judges she wanted to elect to the Cook County Circuit Courts.

As of 8 a.m., poll watchers had recorded a cumulative 323 votes cast, in addition to what they characterized as stellar turnout in early voting. 

The first person to cast his ballot in his precinct was poll watcher William Pickens, 79. He said he helped carry a 95-year-old woman into the early elections office before voting himself. He said this was one of many elections he's participated in over the years as a poll watcher, and he said he feels it's a good cause.

"It's the most exciting election I've ever been a part of," he says. "I've never seen so many people come out to vote… I think people are excited about change in this country." 

Pickens says he has looked at the world as a black man, and a segregated Marine during World War II and as a regular soldier in Korea, and he has strived to succeed, as one of the first, and, he says, one of the best, black men to work for Brinks Security.

 "I think this election could help bring monumental change in how the world sees this country," he says. "If this election goes right, the other countries will see us, and change their ways. The wars will stop, and I hope to see peace. I want to see peace."

Alderwoman Leslie A. Hairston, D-5, voted at Ray while making the rounds of 55 polling places in her jurisdiction. She said election turnout at 10 a.m. had surpassed the entire election last year.

 "The complaint so far has been a lack of pens," she says. "Given the history of Chicago politics, they won't let the aldermen or the council members touch any of the equipment, but they'll send someone out soon."

Wearing a pin that said, "Vote, Damn It!" Hairston says she was traveling around her ward for the rest of the day to keep an eye on the wards and to alert the elections board to any problems. 

"I think the turnout is high because Hyde Park takes this process very seriously," she says.