Election 2020

Loyola Students, Rogers Parkers Head To Polls Despite Anxieties Surrounding Voting

Zack Miller | The PhoenixLoyola's Centennial Forum, which is located under Mertz Hall, served as a polling place for the 49th Ward.

Worries about the 2020 election remained in the minds of some Loyola students and Rogers Park residents as they headed to several local polling locations Nov. 3 to cast their ballots.

Jala Johnson, a sophomore at Loyola who’s on the women’s basketball team, accompanied her teammate, Loyola senior Kailyn Strawbridge to Centennial Forum where Strawbridge went to drop off her ballot. 

Johnson said she voted in her first election in her home state of Ohio. She said she waited 40 minutes to vote, and while it was better than she expected, she still had some remaining nerves because of the election.

“The lines weren’t that long,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. … With this election there’s a lot of anxiety going on but other than that it was fine.”

While lines were thinner due to a record number of early and mail-in ballots being cast nationwide, many showed up to vote in person due to fears of their votes not being counted.

Strawbridge also had some anxieties surrounding the election, though hers were focused on whether or not her mail-in ballot would be lost.

“I voted four years ago and I would’ve mailed it in without a problem then,” Strawbridge said. “Now I need to be in person because I had a fear my vote might be counted or my mail-in ballot might be lost.”

Claims of issues with mail-in ballots and voter fraud have been popularized by President Trump throughout his campaign, with the commander in chief going so far as to say he wasn’t sure if he would accept the results of the election on multiple occasions. 

Operational changes made by Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis Dejoy — including the dismantling of high-speed mail sorting machines — created challenges for the agency as it took on a record number of mail-in ballots. 

Trump claimed he had won the night of Nov. 3 as votes were still being counted. He also stated that he planned to go to the Supreme Court to fight mail-in ballots coming in after Election Day.

On Election Day, the U.S. Postal Service announced that 300,523 mail-in ballots had received entry scans but had not received exit scans, meaning they haven’t been sent to their destinations yet.

Jalan Cruz, a senior at Loyola studying cybersecurity, also went to vote in person, albeit at another site in the 49th Ward. Cruz echoed some of Strawbridge’s concerns surrounding election integrity, though his concerns with voting are because the system isn’t digital.

He said the future of voting may be digital, specifically blockchain — the same system cryptocurrencies use to trace transactions — which he hopes to someday play a part in.

“We’ve talked about this theoretically in classes,” Cruz said. “Hopefully in the future it’s something I can change for the better.”

However, some residents said they were concerned with a different kind of voting-related issue.

Benjamin Pierce, a Rogers Park resident, said he was less concerned with the integrity of the election after ballots are cast and more worried about systematic disenfranchisement.

“It’s not as much that I think votes won’t be counted, it’s disenfranchisement,” the 27-year-old said. “Especially in African American areas, immigrant communities and poorer areas, it seems like they’re specifically trying to disenfranchise people.”

Zack Miller | The Phoenix

Though the presidential election steals the spotlight every four years, Illinois’ graduated tax amendment was a popular point of advocacy by electioneers at Rogers Park polls who advocated for it through a variety of methods. 

Torrence Gardner, the director of economic and community development for the 49th Ward, took advantage of the state holiday to talk to voters outside the ward’s fourth precinct voting location, Sullivan High School (6631 N Bosworth Ave.).

Gardner spent the morning urging voters to pass the ballot measure Senate Bill 687, commonly known as the “fair tax” amendment.

“This would help our constituents who are moderate to low income who make up a good amount of our population in the 49th Ward,” Gardner said.

He wasn’t alone in this, as others from the neighborhood stood outside of polling places to encourage support of the amendment. Rogers Park couple Nick Valvo and Lydia Barnett spent their morning talking to voters and writing chalk messages in support of the amendment outside Loyola’s Centennial Forum and St. Ignatius School.

Zack Miller | The Phoenix Zack Miller | The Phoenix

Despite being tied to Gardner by their advocacy, Bennett said that they are not working with a group but are just passionate members of the community.

“We’re not affiliated with any group, we’re just people in the neighborhood who feel strongly about this issue,” Bennett said.

As of publication, the amendment was on track to fail with 55 percent of the votes going against the “fair tax” bill with 74 percent of precincts reporting. 

Follow the latest election updates and stories from Rogers Park voters on The Phoenix’s Election 2020 page.

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