Early voting has started in Cook County as of Oct. 19. The early birds who showed up to vote at Oak Park village hall Monday morning saw long lines, technical problems and emergency vehicles, after a woman collapsed on the sidewalk near the throng of voters.
Mask-wearing voters stood in socially distanced lines stretching all around the building. Some people even brought portable chairs to sit in. When doors opened at 8:30 a.m., a line of 157 people had already assembled.
The line, which Village Clerk Vicki Scaman called “insane,” quickly lengthened as village staff and poll workers struggled to keep things moving amid technological problems.
Brian Butler, who had been waiting in line for an hour and 45 minutes, said his part of the line hadn’t received an explanation for the holdup. Butler doesn’t usually early vote, but said he decided to vote early in the hopes of avoiding lines.
Four of the seven laptops supplied by Cook County failed to connect to the scanner needed to program the plastic cards needed for voters to insert into the voting machines, according to Scaman. Due to this error, voters were only able to use three of the 14 voting machines, also supplied by Cook County, Scaman said.
“The entire country has known that there was going to be an unbelievable turnout in this election and for the state to not be prepared is disappointing,” said Sarah Myata, who had been waiting for two hours.
Myata said she has voted early in past elections, but never had to wait in line to do so until now.
“I do think the turnout is great,” said Myata.
In response to COVID-19, the village has taken several precautions for early voting, including sanitizing each station after each voter and lining people up outside of village hall.
“Being a healthcare provider, I was encouraged that we would have to wait outside more to limit the amount of people inside the building at once,” said Myata.
Martha Ekwurtzel, who arrived at 7:30 a.m. and finished voting at about 10:25 a.m., didn’t think the wait too terrible.
“Everyone was in good spirits,” said Ekwurtzel. “I’d say the experience was still very pleasant, even though it took quite a while.”
The monotony of waiting was unfortunately interrupted at about 10:30 a.m., when a woman, who looked to be in her 60s or 70s, lost consciousness, fell and hit her head hard on the concrete in front of people waiting to vote. Witnesses said the woman was walking along the sidewalk and appeared to be struggling to breathe before her collapse.
Alarmed, village staff and voters called out to see if anyone was a doctor or nurse. Emergency medical technicians performed CPR on the woman, whose face grew increasingly purple, and transferred her onto a stretcher, as police officers took statements from witnesses. An ambulance transported the woman to a hospital for treatment. Police could not confirm which hospital nor the woman’s condition at this time. The woman is not believed to have been at village hall for voting.
After the police cars, ambulance and firetruck left, people’s attentions returned to voting. Yolanda Taylor, who said she had been waiting in line for over two hours, was concerned with the lack of volunteers to help with voting.
“There’s not enough people volunteering,” Taylor said.
Taylor said she saw elderly people who were confused about where to go for early voting and people in wheelchairs struggling to get up the ramps – situations she believed that could have been avoided with more volunteers.
“I literally had to pull somebody back up the ramp because they couldn’t get up,” Taylor said. “We could definitely do better than this.”
By noon, the county had repaired the technical issues and all voting stations were in working order. Things started to move more steadily after that, with the line of people waiting to vote marginally shorter than that morning.