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Long Lines Reported at Some Polling Places

By  Geoff Ziezulewicz Paul Biasco and Benjamin Woodard | November 6, 2012 3:31pm | Updated on November 6, 2012 5:11pm

 Long lines were reported in early voting Tuesday at some polling stations like St. John's Assyrian Church of the East in Uptown.
Long lines were reported in early voting Tuesday at some polling stations like St. John's Assyrian Church of the East in Uptown.
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DNAinfo/Geoff Ziezulewicz

CHICAGO — Some voters suffered through long lines at the onset of voting Tuesday — a situation that was so bad at one South Side polling place that a voter compared it to a "new poll tax."

St. John's Assyrian Church of the East at 1421 W. Lawrence Ave. in Uptown faced a voter logjam at 6 a.m. after officials had problems entering the start code for the ballot-counting machine, according to election judge Loretta Rode.

The issue was rectified and congestion eased by about 7 a.m., Rode said.

At the Vivian Carter Apartments at 6401 S. Yale Ave. in Englewood, building resident Lindsey Graves said the polls did not open until 6:40 a.m. due to a problem with the ballot-counting machines.

Voting officials on site would not comment. Representatives with the Chicago Board of Elections had not returned calls for comment as of 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Graves, a former bus driver and postal worker, said roughly one-third of the 40 people waiting in line ended up leaving because they had to go to work.

“Most people were calm, but a few were irritated,” Graves said. “They wanted to vote.”

Graves, 63, said it was the first time he had seen such issues.

“It is unconscionable, for a nation as rich and supposedly exceptional, to have such an archaic system,” he said.

There were no lines visible from outside the poll station as of 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Graves said he fears such voting delays are a new way to stifle the black vote in America.

"Time is the new poll tax," he said, referencing a tax to vote that was once used to block eligible black voters from casting a ballot.

Marvel Thompson said he waited more than two hours at the Vivian Carter Apartments location to find out if he was registered there.

“The line was ridiculous,” he said.

After finding out he was not registered there, Thompson came to the Oglesby Elementary School voting station at 7646 S. Green St. in Auburn Gresham late Tuesday morning.

As voters formed a line that snaked around the small voting room, Thompson stood outside and said he had moved this year after he registered to vote. He hoped he was registered at Oglesby like his sister.

He was undeterred by the morning’s difficulties.

“I just want to be able to voice my voice. I just want to be able to say that I did try,” Thompson said. “I’ve got until 7 p.m. I’m going to find it.”

In Lincoln Park, election judges said voters made a rush to the polls right at the 6 a.m. opening, and wait times at two polling locations were about an hour long.

Although DePaul University student turnout was less than the 2008 presidential election that brought out troves of young people in support of Barack Obama, election judge Mary Beth Weishaar said student turnout was strong.

"Some elections are dead. This is really a lot of people," Weishaar said at the 41st precinct, 2323 N. Sheffield Ave. "Last time [2008] people were coming out of the woodwork to vote."

DePaul sophomore Stefanie Safahi, 19, said she and a classmate voted for the first time Tuesday, but many of their classmates who had been spewing political rhetoric over social media for months, forgot to register.

"I know a lot of people are just all talk, but a lot of my friends did absentee," she said.

Safahi, who is from California, registered to vote in Illinois because she wanted to vote in person.

"It was so much fun. I was excited," she said.

Other voters didn't find it as easy to vote. Several people were turned away from voting locations in Edgewater and Rogers Park for being at the wrong polling place.

Ald. Joe Moore (48th) took to social media to warn constituents that their voting locations might have changed after recent ward redistricting. In addition, communication was hampered after the city's election website experienced outages throughout the day.

The outage might have been due to a malicious attack, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Moore instructed voters to check the state's election website instead.

Several bars and restaurants around the neighborhood planned to hold election night events, including the Heartland Cafe and the Mayne Stage/Act One Pub.

Humphrey Jackie, who voted with her son at Eugene Field School in Rogers Park, said she had voted in every election since she turned 18 in 1959.

"I love to vote," she said.