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Voters from Oak Park talk voting in 2020

By Helen Quinn Pasin | October 19, 2020 


Oak Park historically has a high voter turnout. In 2016 83% of Oak Parkers turned out to vote compared to the national average of 61% . This year, most Oak Parkers are voting by mail or early. On the first day of early voting, Oct. 19, 2020, the village saw long lines. 


In a 152 person survey, a Medill student

reporter found that 46% of Oak Parkers

are voting by mail in 2020, compared to

13% in 2016. This year 43% of Oak Parkers

plan to vote early, which is only 6% higher

than in 2016. The biggest difference is that in

2016, 45% of Oak Parkers voted on Election

Day, and this year only 7% plan to vote

on Election Day. 


The majority, 41%, of voters will base their

decision on how to vote on COVID-19 safety

concerns, according to the survey. Christine

Baumbach, 68, recently underwent surgery, so

voting by mail is her only option, she said.

Baumbach and her husband requested their

ballots at the same time. She received hers and

has already returned it, but her husband never

received his ballot. “Voting this year is difficult.

It’s filled with uncertainty,” Baumbach said, “Whether it’s work, childcare, or language barriers, there are all sorts of reasons why people have a hard time voting.” Meanwhile, her husband is still trying to locate his ballot. Baumbach takes comfort knowing that Illinois votes overwhelmingly blue. She said, “If I lived in a state where the result was in contention, I would be really upset.” She referenced the long lines at polling places and suspicious drop boxes in other states, and said, “the cards are really stacked against the people and it makes me mad.” 


When deciding whether to vote by mail, early or on Election Day, 34% of voters said they decide based on convenience. Cheryl Wisniewski, 43, loves voting on Election Day, but this year she decided to vote by mail because of COVID-19. She was pleasantly surprised by the convenience and says she might be a “convert.” “I had the ballot in front of me and went on to look up all the judges,” Wisniewski said. “This was easier than bringing (the information)  in on my phone or printing it because the order on the list doesn’t always line up with the ballot.” 


Twenty-two percent of Oak Park voters made their decision on how to vote based on concerns about their ballots being counted, with 35% of them mentioning concerns about Trump intervening in the election. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I couldn’t imagine going into a polling place,” Venessa Izar McFadden, 42, said, “but when Trump started talking about the election being fraudulent, I didn’t want there to be any issues with mail-in ballots.” Izar McFadden felt compelled to become a first-time election judge, following in the footsteps of her mother who did the same many years ago in North Dakota. “We are not going to have lines that span miles and where people walk away without voting. I just wanted to make sure there was no reason why people couldn’t vote,” she said.  


First day of early voting at Oak Park Village Hall on Oct. 19, 2020 (Photo/Helen Quinn Pasin)

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