Mayoral candidates cast early votes

January 31, 2011 9:36:05 AM PST
Chicagoans began casting their ballots in all of the city's contests, including mayor, on Monday.

Click here for a list of early voting locations and their hours

The Chicago Board of Elections downtown is one of dozens of places where you can go and cast your vote early. It could be more popular than ever with the competitive mayoral race without current Mayor Richard Daley on the ballot.

Mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle voted at a library in Logan Square Monday morning, becoming the first mayoral candidate to vote this election. About an hour later at the West Chicago Branch Library, Rahm Emanuel voted early. Del Valle and Emanuel were trying to rally the troops and lock in the votes.

"The reason I'm here today, first thing in the morning, today, on the first day of early voting, is because I want to encourage everyone to vote early. I want you to get this piece of paper that says, 'early voting ballot received.' This is an historic election in the city of Chicago. We want a high turnout," Del Valle said.

"I think that the challenges the city has are obviously serious, but to meet the challenge of change, you have to have a group of people from all parts of the city who want to make the change necessary," Emanuel said. "While I just cast my vote, they cast their vote, I do think this is a vote not to continue business as usual."

For several weeks, the mayoral candidates have been criss-crossing Chicago's neighborhoods, reaching out to voters, many of whom remained undecided on who they want in the city's top job.

"Early voting is an indicator of whether you will have a big turnout or not, and secondly, the biggest factor in early voting is how many people have their minds made up, and how many people are ready to vote," said Jim Allen, spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections.

Voters do not need a reason or excuse to vote early. The Chicago election board has set up 51 sites across the city for early voting, but election officials have a warning for voters in wards where court challenges have been mounted. The list of candidates could change in the coming days, depending on what the courts decide. Officials plan to distribute and post notices at those early polling places about the finality of their early vote.

"The ballot in your ward may change because there are aldermanic cases still in court," Allen said. "We want to make sure that people understand there are no do-overs, so once you cast your ballot, you're done. You can't come back and revote your ballot for any reason."

Early voting continues through February 17, and you can go to any one of the 51 locations to cast your vote for early voting. On February 22, Election Day, you have to go to your own polling place.

Voters will elect a mayor, city clerk, city treasurer and aldermen in each ward. Voters need to present government-issued photo identification. Early voting is done by touchscreen.