Curlie Mae Johnson, 63 has witnessed a lot of changes in her polling place at Brian Piccolo Specialty School in Humboldt Park since she started as a poll worker in 1990.
“This area used to be all-black, up till about 10 years ago when Hispanics started moving in,” she said.
But now, statistics from Chicago Public Schools show Piccolo made up of only 61 percent African-American students and 38 percent Hispanic students in a neighborhood where the population dropped by nearly 10,000 people over the past decade, according to U.S. Census data.
Johnson arrived at Piccolo, at the corner of Keeler and Thompson in the city’s 37th Ward, at 4 a.m. just to make sure everything is working properly for the 6 a.m. opening. She bought with her cookies she baked herself.
For voter Phillip Radcliff, 58, this election is the most crucial in deciding America’s future and well-being.
“We need to put the right people into office,” Radcliff said. “The people before us fought and died so we could have the right to vote.”
Voters at Johnson’s precinct in the 10th state congressional district were casting ballots for not just the president but State Representative Derrick Smith, recently indicted for bribery.
Ticket broker Rice Gibson, 60 said he supports Lance Tyson to replace Smith, though he said he was unsure if other voters would agree with him due to people’s lack of knowledge in choosing a candidate.
“People simply don’t know what’s going on,” Gibson said. “They don’t know who Derrick [Smith] is, but I do. He’s a crook.”
Thirty-seventh ward Alderman Emma Mitts made a brief stop by the polling place and said redistricting has confused many voters.
“A lot of people are voting for the first time and they aren’t checking beforehand to see if they are in the right polling place,” Mitts said.
However, Mitts said that the turnout so far has been great and encouraged people to keep coming out to vote.
“We’re looking for a victory for our President [Obama] and we support him wholeheartedly,” Mitts said.