Chicago, Palo Alto early voting sites aim to increase voter turnout for Midterm Elections

Caroline Ro and Ryan Li , Editor-in-Chief and News Editor

Written by Caroline Ro and Ryan Li

Midterm elections are to be held on Nov. 6, but voters are already lining up at the polls. In an attempt to curb voter complacency, cities across America are taking measures to make voting more convenient for citizens. During 2016’s November election cycle, voter turnout in Santa Clara County was at a record high. According to Santa Clara County’s post-election report, 83.6% of local residents voted in the November 2016 election. Turnout in Palo Alto was remarkably higher than that of other cities across the country. Chicago, Illinois, for example, had a voter turnout of 71.04% in 2016, according to the Chicago Tribune.  

In an effort to increase voter turnout, Cook County and the City of Chicago have made two weeks of early voting available in preparation for election day. Around Chicago alone, there are over 50 different polling locations, including the Loop Super Site in the downtown Chicago. The Loop Super Site is open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. on weekdays (with slightly shorter hours on weekends), making early voting an easy option for many Chicagoans. Sandra Yamate, an attorney and the CEO of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession, also found the opportunities for early voting to be particularly convenient. “[It’s s]o convenient that I don’t think anyone has an excuse not to vote,” Yamate said.

Similarly, many voters exiting the Loop Super Site after early voting expressed that the ubiquity and availability made the process much easier for them amidst their busy schedules. “My job often takes me out of town, so if I’m not in town on the single day where voting is allowed, then I don’t get to vote,” industrial designer Eric Hill said. J.D. Brannock, a business developer, also recalled receiving a flier in the mail detailing locations where he could go to vote.

In comparison, Santa Clara County has a total of eight different early voting polling locations that opened on Oct. 27, a week and a half before. Many mail-in ballot drop-off locations are also available throughout Palo Alto. A comprehensive list of drop-off locations can be found here. While Palo Alto has yielded higher numbers in the past, efforts by the City of Chicago hope to raise the local voter turnout.

Individuals leaving the polling center also expressed why they felt that voting was so crucial. “[It’s i]mportant for everybody to vote because we are granted that right by the Constitution and the later amendments,” tax attorney Ben Gerber said.

Maxine, a recent high school graduate currently taking a gap year, says that as young people are the largest voting demographic, it is crucial that they vote in November. “We are the next generation.” She said. “I know that sounds super corny, but also everyone’s dying and we’re up and running. We’re the new hot thing. If you want to see change, you have to vote.” Maxine added. There’s no point in complaining about what’s wrong in the world or America and then not voting. You don’t have a voice, don’t complain about it.”