By Terry Dean
Due to the large flow of people funneling through Oak Park's Village Hall during the two-week early voting period, the Village of Oak Park is looking to move early voting to a different location in town.
Nearly a thousand people took advantage of early voting during the spring elections this year. But the November 2012 presidential election was even more hectic, says Oak Park Village Clerk Teresa Powell. About 8,700 people voted early during the two weeks prior to Nov. 6. The Friday and Saturday before that election saw about 1,000 people each day.
Powell said village hall can no longer accommodate the growing number of people electing to vote early. Early voting has become very popular in around the country. It ran from Oct. 22 to Nov. 3 during the national election, and from March 25 to April 6 this spring. More people tend to show up during the final early voting days.
About 300 people showed at village hall on Oct. 22 but by Nov. 3 that total rose to 1,162.
"We had to send people to Cicero because we just couldn't add any more people," Powell said, adding that village hall was well above capacity.
It took several hours for people to vote on that last day, which was a Saturday, though early voting ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After standing in line near the main entrance at village hall just to check in, another long wait occurred to actually vote, with people sitting and waiting in council chambers.
Election judges paid by the Cook County Board of Elections process the voters. Still, Powell said there's not enough staff to handle to the overflow.
The village clerk is talking with the other Oak Park taxing bodies about possibly hosting early voting. Powell broached the topic at a recent meeting with IGOV, the group comprised of elected board members from the various taxing bodies. The IGOV group's main focus is finding ways for the taxing bodies to partner together.
Oak Park and River Forest High School was mentioned as a possible alternative site for early voting. But OPRF spokesperson Karin Sullivan said the high school has not been approached about hosting early voting.
Powell noted that talks with the taxing bodies have just begun and that a follow-up meeting with IGOV is scheduled for next month.
IGOV member Peter Traczyk, who sits on the District 97 school board, said D97 would not be ideal to host early voting. The schools already have security concerns as polling places on election days, Traczyk said, with people entering the buildings while classes are in session. Powell noted that early voting locations and machines need to be secure, especially at night.
Traczyk said that could be an issue at D97. Traczyk suggested the high school as an alternative site, noting that OPRF is also a polling place on Election Day. D97 spokesperson Chris Jasculca said the school district is open to discussion on hosting early voting. A number of factors, however, such as security, would need to be taken into account, Jasculca said.
With the next municipal elections two years away, Powell said there's plenty of time to find a new early voting site in Oak Park.