CHAMPAIGN – Polling places in Champaign County saw varied turnout early on Election Day.
Locations including Church of the Living God and the Douglass Center Annex in north Champaign were off to a slow start around 9:30 a.m., with only a few voters at each site.
However, around an hour later, the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Prospect Ave. began to get busy with voters.
By 11 a.m., wait times at Good Shepherd exceeded an hour. Election workers on site said more than 18,000 people had already cast their ballot.
Champaign County residents and University of Illinois tech support employees Corinne Henderson and Joe Tucci reached the halfway point of the line at Good Shepherd after thirty minutes.
“It sucks, but we had the day off from the university, so it could’ve been worse,” Tucci said.
Election rules allow voters to cast their ballots at any local polling place, and election volunteers at Good Shepherd tried to direct voters to nearby polling places.
At Hessel Park Christian Reformed Church — just a two-minute drive from Good Shepherd – lines were non-existent. Some voters there said they were in and out in five minutes.
Thousands of people stuck it out for the hour-long wait at Good Shepherd, however.
Waiting in line at Good Shepherd, Henderson said voters shouldn’t be intimidated by long wait times. But she said long lines could be avoided, too.
“Vote by mail and vote early, I guess is a takeaway, if you don’t want to wait,” she said.
Local, midterm elections are important, Henderson said.
“Sometimes it can feel like in the big presidential races that you don’t really have much of a say if your state runs red or blue,” she said. “But in these small things, you can really make a difference.”
Jason Fisher, director of youth and family programs at Good Shepherd, worked Tuesday at the polling location. He said he also sees the significance of local politics.
“I see that all politics begin locally,” Fisher said. “I think that we all live and work near each other in community, so if we’re not figuring out how to live in community with our neighbors, then some of the national stuff is not going to matter.”
At the University of Illinois, polling places like the Illini Union were packed with students and other local residents.
Sumeet Thosar, a masters student in bioengineering, said it’s important for young people to vote.
“The majority of the policies that are going to affect us are actually at the state level, so this is a big, important election,” Thosar said. “There’s the governor race and a lot of other important races that are going to be important to factor in, especially in your decision.”