With the General Election just two-weeks away, a diverse, interfaith coalition of more than 600 people made a big splash Monday as they flooded the halls of the Chicago Board of Election where they took advantage of the first day of early voting.
A number of elected and community activists spoke at the Chicago Temple, 77 West Washington, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Rep. Christian Mitchell,Â Mike Frerichs, who is running for state treasurer, several ministers, like Pastor Walter Turner and Pastor Tyrone Crider and long-time West Side activists Lillian Drummond, a member of the South Austin Coalition Community Council.
Organizer Jaquie Algee, vice president of the SEIU HealthCare, and Lance Gough, executive director of the Chicago Board of Election, were among the greeters. While watching hundreds of early voters come down the escalator, Gough said, â€œI think this is great. I encourage people for an early vote.
â€œEarly voting is a great way because your records are there,â€ he said. â€œThey are ont he computer. People can look them and get you in and not. If you are not registered, you can register at the early voting sites at the same time. Itâ€™s perfect. There is no excuse not to register and not to vote in the city of Chicago,â€ said Gough.
Speaking at the rally, Algee said, â€œâ€™We are excited about launching â€˜Souls to the Polls’ today in Chicago and throughout the suburbsâ€ that included busloads early voting in Matteson, Markham and South Holland. She was part of the coalition workingt o raise the minimum wage by calling on people to vote early including on this issue that is a referendum on the ballot. The coalition is fighting to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour up from $8.25 an hour.
One of the hundreds of early voters was wheelchair-bound Valeria Sammons, 92, said she will be out of town on November 4th and that early voting is important. She will be 94-years-old next month.
Bob Vondrasek, executive director of the South Austin Coalition, said, â€œItâ€™s a great idea to try to get people out, and it is extremely important. You have al ot of things that affect low-income people. If we have a new governor, I think certain things would be cut back like the utility program, the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PI.P.P.) that Gov. Quinn signed at our office where people had to pay six percent of their monthly income. We could lose it,â€ he warned.
Drummond, a 93-year-old activist, spoke at the rally saying, â€œPeople have a right to votef or any party they choose, and I respect that, but what has any one of those billionaire Republicans ever done for any of our senior citizens, people with disabilities, low income and young families with small children and babies? Nothing,she bellowed.
â€œItâ€™s a shame that some people will sell their souls for a little money,â€ Drummond said. â€œWhat about the rest of us who will suffer because of a few greedy people? I have a problem with that. Neither one of the billionaire Republican candidates, Jim Oberweis or Bruce Rauner has ever done anything to help us nor now they have not said what they will do to help if they become a senator or governor. They have said they will cut our social programs. Think about that.â€
Emerging from the Chicago Temple carrying a sign calling for a vote on the minimum wage, was Pastor Marvin Hunter, Grace Memorial Baptist Church, who said, â€œThis election is important because we stand to lose so much in terms of social services that had already been voted on passed and gained like the voting laws put in place by civil rights leaders of the pass. They are all seemed to becoming under attack.â€
Curtiss DeYoung, executive director of the Community Renewal Society, said it is important to get the minimum wage issue passed. â€œItâ€™s not enough to get voters registered. We have to get them to the polls, and I think the faith community has the unique ability to move people.â€ He said early voting makes it easier todo that. â€œIt is turn out that determines who wins.
To prove his point, DeYoung pointed to former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney he said, â€œMitt Romney thought he had won the presidency, but by the end of the night Barack Obama had won the election. The Obama political machine had the ability to turn people out. That made a huge difference.â€ He said early voting works.
Activist Wallace â€œGatorâ€ Bradley was the first one in line to vote. â€œIt is very important to vote,â€ he said. â€œWhen I see African Americans signs saying they should vote for Rauner as opposed to Quinn. With Quinn at least we have something. We may not have all that we want, but Rauner is letting you know that he is going to take what little got away from you.â€
Marilyn Pagan-Banks, executive director of the A Just Harvest with North Side Power, said, â€œWe have generations of people fight to make sure we have an access to vote, and I believe if we want change, we have to voice our change and vote our change. We canâ€™t hold anybody accountable if we donâ€™t help get anybody elected.If we want transformation, justice for our communities, then we have to make sure we have people in place making those decisions on our behalf who listen to the wishes of the people and we canâ€™t do that if we donâ€™t exercise our right to vote,â€ she said.
Don Bard, a teacher, said, â€œThere is so much at stake like passage of the minimum wage. If someone is going to do away with minimum wage, you have to get out there and fight for that.â€
Here is the list of the 51 early voting sites for Chicago: https://www.facebook.com/notes/chinta-strausberg/souls-to-the-polls-made-a-big-hit-in-chicago/10152459888460866http://www.chicagoelections.com/dm/general/document_464.pdfand if you live in south suburban Cook, click on this link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/chinta-strausberg/souls-to-the-polls-made-a-big-hit-in-chicago/10152459888460866http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/elections/earlyvoting/pages/earlyvotinglocations.aspx
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.