News Local/State

Long Lines And Allegations Of Voter Suppression At Some Champaign County Polling Places

Students in line to vote early at the Illini Union on Nov. 5, 2018.

Students in line to vote early at the Illini Union on Nov. 5, 2018. Anna Casey/Illinois Public Media

Early voting totals in Champaign County for the 2018 midterm election have surpassed early voting totals from 2014, according to local election officials.

Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said Monday evening that voters had cast 32,454 early ballots ahead of Election Day.

“Which is not as many as we had for the Presidential Election,” Hulten said, “but more than we had for the last midterm.”

A line to vote early at the University of Illinois campus began at the entrance of the Illini Union and snaked up the stairs to the fourth floor of the building. Students at the front of the line Monday afternoon said they had been waiting for just over an hour to cast their vote.

One of those students was Isaac Adorno. “It’s our civic duty to vote,” Adorno said. “Even if I had to wait longer, it would still be worth it for me.”

In response to the long lines Monday, Hulten said the Illini Union offered the county additional space to use for voting on Election Day, "which we will use tomorrow to expand that voting location to offer more stations, staffed by more election judges, and with more booths."

Some voters reported barriers to casting their ballot in Champaign County. Cunnigham Township Supervisor Danielle Chynoweth said she received three calls alleging that homeless individuals faced challenges at local polling places when they tried to register and vote early. Those who are homeless can legally vote by listing the address of a local shelter, such as the Township Supervisor’s office in Urbana, instead of a home address on their registration documents.

“The issue that we saw was that the election judge told a voter in front of me, who was homeless, that he could not vote because his ID was from Springfield,” Chynoweth said speaking on Illinois Public Media's The 21st show. “This is absolutely false.”

Chynoweth said she was able to explain to the election judge why the voter was eligible to cast his ballot in that instance. In an open letter to the Champaign County Clerk’s office, Chynoweth said another homeless individual who attempted registering at the Brookens Center was turned away because he did not have a letter from the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen explaining that he was homeless. The voter should have been offered a provisional ballot, Chynoweth said. 

Hulten said he was made aware of the allegations of voter suppression Sunday night and that the Champaign County Clerk’s office is actively investigating all three cases.