Quick Hit David Milton Brent Tuesday March 20th, 2012, 2:12pm

Tales From The Polling Places In Illinois' 5th Senate District (VIDEO)

Only a small trickle of voters walked through the doors this morning at the Chicago Public Library branch in Bucktown-Wicker Park, a polling location for the 32nd ward. An election judge stepping out for a smoke break looked up at the sunny, cloudless sky and shook his head. “Can’t be the weather,” he said.

Though not as bad as in some other locations around the city, turnout at the library so far today has been fairly low. Several passersby said they were not aware there was an election today. One gentleman came to the front door looking a bit confused. “I’m just here to use the bathroom,” he said.

Fifty feet from the building, past the electioneering checkpoints, signs for various candidates lined the sidewalk. In the contentious battle between incumbent Annazette Collins and former mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt Watkins in the 5th District state senate race, Van Pelt Watkins appeared to have the stronger GOTV presence in the area; her campaign had ten signs placed strategically around the polling place, compared with just one for Collins.

Yet even some of the campaign volunteers appeared effected by malaise. On the corner across the street from the library, a Van Pelt Watkins supporter leaned against a yard sign, reading a newspaper. Further up the street, two volunteers backing a judicial candidate left in search of coffee.

Those who did come to vote ran the gamut from Democrats supporting local candidates to Republicans looking to elect their party’s presidential nominee. Predictably, the economy was the most common issue cited by most voters in their decision. Democratic voters also frequently mentioned the relative qualifications of the candidates in local races.

Over on the Near West Side, a polling place at the McDermott Center in the 27th ward was nearly deserted. As of 10:30 this morning there were no campaign volunteers in sight, although the surrounding streets were plastered with signs for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk  incumbent Dorothy Brown. Voters were almost as scarce.

During one 20-minute stretch, Nell Schneider was the only person who came to McDermott to vote. Schneider, who just moved into the city from Oak Park, said she was disappointed with the way both Collins and Van Pelt Watkins went negative in the 5th District state senate race. “I got a lot of pamphlets in the mail from both sides – saw the power of negative advertising, which I don’t like. But in this case, it worked on me: I voted for Collins’ opponent,” she said, referring to Van Pelt Watkins.

With no one coming in to cast ballots, election judges took advantage of the lull to smoke cigarettes and ogle a prisoner being removed from a police paddy wagon across the street. One judge took another judge for a ride around the block in a bicycle rickshaw, for reasons that remain unclear.

“Woo, is it nice out,” said the passenger as they drove by.


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