PI Original Aricka Flowers Tuesday March 20th, 2012, 11:42am

Liveblog: Illinois Voters Head To The Polls, Candidates Make Last Push

It's March 20 and the Illinois primary elections are here. Progress Illinois has reporters on the street talking to voters at the polls and candidates as they make their last push for votes. Check back with our election day liveblog for updates and reports from the polls and campaign trail as well as the latest election news.

It's March 20 and the Illinois primary elections are here. Progress Illinois has reporters on the street talking to voters at the polls and candidates as they make their last push for votes.

Voter turnout has been quite low, according to reports from across the state, and things have been fairly quiet in Chicago, with only one precinct reporting problems this morning. Meanwhile, Illinois Review and Capital Fax are reporting that 65 counties in Illinois are facing problems with ballot widths due to a printing error by a company certain vendors used. Illinois has 102 counties.

According to Capital Fax, Illinois State Board of Elections officials say no large counties have been affected by the problem. Some ballots will need to be counted by hand because they cannot fit in the machines. Use of the electronic touch screen ballot boxes is being encouraged. There is also word that some precinct judges may end up cutting the blank ballots down to size so they can get them through the machines. Stay tuned.

Check back with our election day liveblog often for updates and reports from the polls and campaign trail as well as the latest election news. For detailed profiles on all of the Illinois congressional candidates, check out our Congressional Primaries 2012 tool here or via the link at the top of the page.

Update 1 (12:14 p.m.): Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's press secretary just told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that the campaign thinks the final vote between their candidate and rival Rick Santorum will be a close one in Illinois.

"I feel confident that we'll do well tonight," said Andrea Saul, Romney's spokeswoman. "But I do think it's going to be a close vote as we saw with Ohio and Michigan ... We expect tonight to be closer than the public polling shows, but I feel confident that we'll do well there tonight."

Update 2 (12:41 p.m.): With the recent spike in legislative attacks on women's reproductive rights, NARAL Pro-Choice pulled together a Pro-Choice Voter Guide for the 2012 elections. Here's their rundown on the choice stances of the Illinois congressional candidates in today's primary election.

Update 3 (12:57 p.m.): NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern just tweeted that Chicago Board of Elections officials say today might be the worst voter turnout ever. Progress Illinois reporter Matthew Blake says he only saw six voters in more than two hours of poll watching in Logan Square this morning. He'll have more from the 39th Illinois House race this afternoon.

Update 4 (1:35 p.m.): Progress Illinois' Matthew Blake files a report from the state's 39th House District, where voter turnout is "shockingly bad", according to one election volunteer. Here's the full story.

Update 5 (1:50 p.m.): We ran into a Republican voter in Logan Square, who declined to provide his full name. The gentleman said he voted not in local races, but only the Republican presidential primary – choosing Mitt Romney because of the candidate’s economic views.

“He’s providing honest responses into how we can fix economic malaise we’re in instead of tapping into people’s emotional triggers,” the voter said. “You’ve got to believe in something when you are one of the few Republicans in Chicago.”

Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) tweeted his support to Romney's campaign in Illinois just a few minutes ago: "Voting has started in - has run an excellent campaign and we're hoping for a big victory tonight"

Update 6 (2:22 p.m.): Even though the race is contentious in Illinois' 5th Senate District between incumbent Annazette Collins and former Chicago mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, voter turnout is low there as well — leaving election workers and judges restless, with some even riding off in a rickshaw. Click through for the full story.

Update 7 (2:36 p.m.): We are getting word of some sort of scuffle/confrontation between a few of the precinct capatins and election judges in the 39th IL House District. We'll provide more details on what sparked the problem when we hear more.

Update 8 (2:44 p.m.): Chicago activists staged a protest outside of a Romney fundraiser earlier this afternoon. From Stand up! Chicago:

At noon today, as the 1% supporters of Mitt Romney met at the S. Michigan Ave. Hilton for a $1,000-a-head fundraiser, the 99% lined up outside on the sidewalk in order to protest Romney’s “Tax the Poor” policies.

“We formed a human red carpet to demonstrate what Romney wants to do to working families,” explained Stand Up! Chicago policy analyst Elizabeth Parisian. “Romney supports tax policies that would cut the taxes of the very wealthy 15% by increasing those of poor families by a full 60%. If that’s not stepping on the 99%, I don’t know what is.”

The assembled protestors lay supine underneath an actual red carpet, inviting Romney’s 1% guests to literally step all over them. None of the wealthy attendees entering the hotel took them up on the offer, seeming to prefer to just symbolically trample the low-income and middle-class families who would suffer under Romney’s proposed tax policies.

A Corporate Welfare King puppet, wearing oversized Romney buttons, did take up the challenge. While stepping from one side of the carpet to the other, the puppet loudly expressed his support of Romney’s pro-1% economic agenda.

While Romney was nowhere to be seen, the protestors were confident he would appreciate their red carpet. “He’s worth over $200 million and made $20 million last year on just investment income,” said Parisian. “In fact, he had very little, if any, earned income last year. It’s not surprising that he wants to decrease taxes on investment income and doesn’t care if taxes go up on those of us who work for a living. He’s looking out for number one, and the 1%, at the same time.”

Update 9 (3:37 p.m.): A little over an hour ago, incumbent Annazette Collins in the 5th Illinois Senate District said there have been about 50 voters per precinct on average in the district at that time. We'll have more from both Collins and Van Pelt Watkins in a bit.

Update 10 (4:21 p.m.): Apparently, the oversized ballot issue was a problem in about 24 Illinois counties. Nonetheless, delays are expected on returns tonight. Meanwhile, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says Cook, DuPage, Kane, Peoria, and Winnebago Counties will be the most telling for Romney's campaign in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, even though he's expected to win the state overall.

Update 11 (4:55 p.m.): Capitol Fax is reporting some new campaign fundraising totals from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Among some of the top 10 fundraisers since Friday, along with how much they raised as of 2 p.m. today, include: 26th IL House District candidate Christian Mitchell ($125,810.73); State Supreme Court candidate Mary Jane Theis ($123,500.00); 21st IL House District candidate Silvana Tabares ($48,000.00); Supreme Court candidate Joy Cunningham ($45,500.00); and 26th Dist candidate Kenny Johnson ($42,300.00).

Update 12 (5:14 p.m.): We have more on the rumored confrontation in the 39th Illinois House District that we liveblogged about earlier.

From PI reporter Matthew Blake:

Rebecca Reynolds, campaign manager for Will Guzzardi's bid to unseat Maria Berrios as the 39th District State Representative, accuses 39th District election judges of leading voters astray. Reynolds says election judges gave voters an incorrect ballot (i.e. a Republican ballot for a registered Democratic voter) and were "incredibly aggressive" and "vitriolic" to 39th District voters today.

According to Reynolds, the Guzzardi campaign has especially heard complaints about the 35th Ward, 35th Precinct Polling place in Logan Square.

Check back in after the polls close tonight for more on the Guzzardi-Berrios race.

Update 13 (5:31 p.m.): Democratic 2nd congressional district candidate Debbie Halvorson is greeting voters at the Metra stop in University Park.

Here's a short report from PI staffer Matthew Blake on his conversation with the candidate:

We just caught up with former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s challenger today in the 2nd Congressional District primary. Halvorson acknowledged that voter turnout has been very low in many places throughout the 2nd District, "often fifteen to twenty percent" of registered voters. Still, Halvorson put an optimistic face on beating the incumbent in a low turnout race. She said that an internal poll by Jackson's campaign showed the incumbent up by 36 percentage points, and had too small of a sample size (400 registered voters) to be taken seriously.

Check back in for more later on the Halvorson/Jackson, Jr. contest and more on our conversation with Halvorson.

Update 14 (5:54 p.m.): At least one place in the state is reporting relatively decent voter turnout. In Bloomington, Election Judge Coordinator Gary Frazier says turnout has been "pretty decent" for a primary election at the Lafayette Banquet Hall, which encompasses three precincts. WJBC reports that there have been 240 ballots submitted so far, with election officials expecting a final push of no more than 30 to 40 voters this evening.

Update 15 (5:58 p.m.): Progress Illinois is getting word via Twitter that election officials at Hoffman Estates Precinct 71 are handing out paper ballots with plans to do hand counting of the votes later. The batteries on the ballot boxes have reportedly died, according to our tipster.

Update 16 (6:23 p.m.): Voter apathy, specifically the sentiment that all politicians are the same, seems to be the cause of the extremely low turnout seen in the 21st Illinois House District, where Christian Mitchell and Kenny Johnson are going head-to-head for the Democratic nomination. Click here for the full story.

Update 17 (6:32 p.m.): There are now 25 counties reporting issues with ballots that are too large, according to the Associated Press. Those 25 counties are: Winnebago, Vermilion, Iroquois, Douglas, Knox, Grundy, McLean, Warren, Lee, Bond, Bureau, Christian, Clark, Coles, DeWitt, DuPage, Edgar, Macon, Macoupin, McDonough, Moultrie, Putnam, Rock Island, Shelby, and Tazewell.

Update 18 (6:38 p.m.): Looks like budget problems have done away with a well-known voting souvenir in some parts of Illinois.

A tweet from WardRoom:

Did you get an "IVOTED" sticker? Some polling places said they didn't have enough money in the budget to give them out.

Did you get an "I Voted" sticker?

Update 19 (6:44 p.m.): PI's David Milton Brent offers up this tidbit from Chicago's downtown area:

In the West Loop, the few people that are talking about the election only seem interested in the contentious Republican primary.
In a Starbucks on West Randolph Street, one cop confidently predicted the outcome, both for today and the general election in November.
"It'll be Romney. Romney's going to win it all," he said. 
His partner laughed. "You're wrong, man. You are so wrong."

Image: AP

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