While exercising their civil duty by casting a ballot this election season, Rogers Park residents are taking extra caution to minimize COVID-19 transmission while voting.
Across the city, more than 700,000 Chicago residents have voted ahead of Election Day as of Nov 1., according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. More than 7,000 49th Ward — which covers Rogers Park — residents have voted early as of Nov. 1, according to 49th Ward Chief of Staff Leslie Perkins.
The number of early voters in 2020 has surpassed any other election year, as early voters have already cast 70 percent of the total votes counted in the 2016 general election, The Phoenix reported.
Poll workers plan to keep voters safe by wearing face coverings and monitoring themselves for COVID-19 symptoms, as required by the Illinois Department of Public Health, according to the 2020 Election Day Guidelines.
In addition to the safety measures poll workers are following, Rogers Park residents are also taking precautions to vote in a manner that keeps everyone safe.
Rogers Park resident Brian Lebens said he believes this election is the most important one in his entire lifetime. He changed his decision to vote by mail and instead dropped off his ballot at a ballot box in the neighborhood he’s been living in for 15 years.
The 55-year-old said he wanted to limit his presence at a polling site during a pandemic, so he opted out of voting in-person. However, he said he chose not to send his ballot through the postal service because he didn’t want to risk it not arriving on time.
Due to the pandemic and shortage of funds, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is expected to delay mail delivery, The Phoenix previously reported. In response to public concern over delays, USPS released a statement assuring the public they will take extra measures to deliver mail-in ballots on time.
Lebens also said he encourages his family members on Facebook to vote and advocates for everyone to vote regardless of whether they share his preference.
A resident of Rogers Park for 11 years, Nick Ferrin voted by mail because he said it’s faster and less chaotic than voting in-person. Ferrin said he was initially worried he may have made an error while filling out his ballot, which would have made the ballot unacceptable. But he said he was relieved when he checked the status of his ballot and saw it was approved.
Regarding masks not being required for voters, Ferrin said he thinks everyone should wear one unless they have a legitimate reason not to. As for voting in-person, he said he would feel safe if voting in-person was the only option because he knows how to protect himself and others from COVID-19. However, he said he may get into a conflict with someone who refuses to protect other voters. Ferrin said he believes he made the right decision by sending his ballot through the postal service.
“The fact that people don’t take this seriously is because of the messaging that comes from the very top,” said Ferrin, a 39-year-old actor. There would not be an anti-mask movement or a COVID-hoax movement if it wasn’t for the president and the right-wing media amplifying his message.”
The Trump Administration has downplayed the severity of the virus and the importance of wearing a face covering since the start of the pandemic. After the CDC recommended people wear masks, the president said at a press conference on April 3 he wouldn’t wear one because he thinks it’s a personal choice.
Hope Nye, who moved to Rogers Park three months ago, said she already voted by mail because it’s more convenient. The 30-year-old teacher said she feels mail-in ballots are secure despite public doubt because studies have shown voter fraud is rare. However, she said she thinks the Trump administration could have taken steps to make mail-in ballots more reliable for the general public.
“There are some misgivings about the impact of an individual vote considering the power of the electoral college, but I think the social climate makes it so that it’s everybody’s responsibility to vote,” Nye said.