Ahead of and on Election Day, Chronicle photojournalists covered polling sites in neighborhoods across Chicago to speak with voters on what brought them to the polls.
In their own words, here is why these Chicagoans voted, what changes they hope to see and how they feel about the election.
“I just hope we have less hatred. My whole vote is to just get this guy out of there right now and bring a little more love and a little less hate,” said Vince B. “I don’t know if it will do it or not, but it’s my hope.”
“I think it is a beautiful thing to see people taking the time to know how important it is to vote,” said Desiree Winter, a Berwyn, Illinois, resident. “I don’t believe both sides are 100% [truthful]; I just feel like they need to be more for the people, regardless who wins, and if they are not there for the people, I would say we vote their a– out of there.”
“I think the world is in a weird place right now,” said Kelsey Ellis. “The outcome, regardless of the Electoral College, is going to be reflective of how the United States is feeling right now.”
“I’ve voted a lot in the last two years, but I’m a little more anxious about voting in a pandemic,” said Boe Chmil, a local filmmaker.
“I’ve never not voted since I was 18,” said Jennifer Bridgeforth, a Chicago voter. “I’m always gonna vote. It is one of the fundamental core ways … to change what is going on in our communities and in our country.”
“Everybody needs to just get out and vote so that we can change this country and get this country back in the right hands,” said Jesse Johnson, a Chicago voter.
“I’m the 100th person in line, and I’m freezing mine and my child’s butt off to vote,” said Ilona Koziel at the Lincoln Park High School polling place.
“Seeing the results throughout the country has been amazing. Everybody’s [vote] is important,” said Brit Sparks, a Lake View resident. “Personally, I voted Libertarian, so I hope to see our candidate finally get money and representation to run a campaign and see a third party. I just want to see something different.”
“I am just looking for a president that cares. Unfortunately, we don’t have someone in the office that really cares about American people,” said Aaliyah Morgan from Lynwood, Illinois.
“It’s not my first time voting, but I’m excited,” said Kaylee Zheng, who came to the polls with her dog, Buffy.
“The thing that I’m specifically enthusiastic about is the [Illinois] Fair Tax [amendment],” said Andrew Carr.
“It’s probably one of the most important elections of our time. I think we’re in a way fighting the closest leader we’ve had to fascism,” said Robert Penna. “I kind of wanted to vote Green Party … but with the possibility of Trump maybe denying that the election is legitimate, I thought it may be better to just tack the numbers in the favor of which my opinion goes.”
“It feels like we are voting for democracy or autocracy,” said Ruth Mortensen.
“I’m excited to see what happens,” said Brooke Paulin. “I’m not very enthusiastic about either candidate, but it’ll be interesting.”
“We want to have a leader who will take care of global warming and … who will take [this] seriously and listen to the scientists and the doctors and respect their advice,” said Ngoedup Wangmo (left), who was born in Tibet and came to the polls with her son, Tenzin Wozer (right). “I feel privileged to be able to vote for all these years … since I became a citizen in 1998.”
“[Voting] is the most important privilege we have as U.S. citizens,” said Connor Kelly, an event manager in Pilsen. “Even in a state like Illinois, where we’re likely to vote for a Democrat … it’s important for all of us to show up and vote for who we believe in.”
“We’re just out here directing traffic and making sure everything goes smoothly,” said Tina Flax, a worker with the CPS Safe Passage Program.
“I’m not really excited about [voting],” said Brian Loomis.
“Everybody should come to vote,” said Vannard Davis, a U.S. Navy veteran. ”We have to have a change.”
“I voted today to … fix the hole that we’ve been dug into and the world of hate that our system has provided people access to,” said Maya Popernik, who was able to vote for the first time this year.
“I’ve voted in every election I could [since 2012],” said Lucas Shay Roetter. “[This election] is fairly frightening. I think there is a measurable difference between candidates that you don’t often see.”
“I’ve been voting since I was 18 and I’m eager to see [the results],” said Gabriella Martinez, who voted at Ogden Elementary School.
“I know the city votes Democrat, but I don’t want to miss my opportunity to represent … the potential outcome seems much more meaningful,” said Michael Keele.
“I believe in the process of voting, that’s what got me into it,” said Bridgette Gaters, an early-voting election official and 2004 Columbia alum.
“It’s life or death this time. This election matters more than ever before,” said Katie Klain.
“Our country is very divided, [and] I would love to see our country come more together at this time … I think we have seen that in the polls, so I am looking forward to seeing four years of togetherness in our community,” said Matthew Gold, a South Loop resident.
“It feels rewarding to be civically engaged and to make my voice heard,” said Jacob Levin.
“What I’m most excited about on the ballot is the Fair Tax law,” said Abigail Kuchnir.
“This is my first time working the polls; I just wanted to help out,” said Tara Alicea, an early-voting election official at Ogden Elementary School.
“Eventually, we will have the right president. Right now, we have to depend on whoever God sends us,” said Eunice White, an election judge for the last 20 years.
“I’ve been voting for a while—I’m excited and nervous,” said Martin Murphy, who came to the polls with his dog, Betty.
“My family is African American, from the South, and a lot of them didn’t even have the opportunity to vote,” said Darius McIntosh a 36-year-old Washington Heights resident. “So I make a special effort to vote in every election because of my ancestors. I have to do it.”
“[After tomorrow’s election] I just hope to see people taking the pandemic more seriously. I really hope that there’s less of a politicization of it … I hope to see good changes,” said Alex Vaca, a Lincoln Square resident.
Rebecca Faber advised voters to do their research and vote as early as possible to avoid lines and crowds.
“This is my first time voting,” said Eoin Kirwan. “It’s a pretty good process. I was expecting a massive queue but there wasn’t [one].”
“I always vote, even though I believe the government that we’ve had for quite some time, maybe [for the last] 40 years, isn’t responsive anymore to the electorate,” said Mark Zatorski.
“It was nothing remarkable; it went smoothly,” said Evan Burnham, a first-time voter who cast his ballot at Ogden Elementary School.
“I want to see the movements—particularly for social justice and police reform—continue to inform the leaders of this nation instead of just be ignored, and it seemed like voting is just one way to support that,” said Nancy Onderdonk, who voted early in the Edgewater neighborhood.
“Right now there is a lot of people impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement and how political parties are navigating those waters,” said David Sanchez (right), who came to vote with his friend Tamer Mohamed (left). “We’ve got a lot of pressing issues and a lot of division in our country, so I think it is important to pick the right candidate.”
“It’s special to me because it’s my first American election,” said Neno Damyanob, who immigrated to the United States from Bulgaria and gained his citizenship this past year.
“You can’t complain about anything if you don’t vote,” said Donna Donoghue, a Chicago voter. “You can only complain if you vote.”
“I’m not happy with either candidate, but I have to do what it takes to get Trump out,” said Rahannah Glenn-Omar.
“I think that paying attention to the issues down-ballot is really important for everybody, not just the names we already know,” said Colin Sphar, who has voted in every election since 2008.
“I’m a little nervous as always,” said Carlos Olvera. “As we learned from the last election, I still don’t know which way it’s going to go.”
“Right now, especially with the pandemic, it is more important than ever to make yourself heard,” said Caroline Helen Ecker, who came to vote with her boyfriend, who was voting for the first time in a presidential election.
“I feel that no time is more important than now for everybody to participate as citizens in the election,” said Gregory Keith Porter, a 1983 Columbia alum, who was unable to vote in the 2016 election due to a major surgery. “I am a lot more motivated to make certain that I am doing so this time without any hesitation.”
“I’ve been voting for a while, but this time it’s challenging,” said Elizabeth Chilla, a designer and embroiderist.
“I always vote but I’m feeling much more inspired this year to make sure we get some change,” said Christine Johnroe.