Chuck Sweeny: I voted early, felt guilty, and you can, too

Chuck Sweeny

I regard voting as a secular sacrament and Election Day as a Holy Day of Obligation. So, I felt guilty of sacrilege Monday afternoon when I drove to the Rockford Board of Elections and voted early for a whole slew of candidates, hoping that I wasn’t picking too many scoundrels.

The office was full of cheerful voters and helpful staffers. I showed a man my driver’s license; he looked me up on the rolls, got my ballot and told me to go over to a table where two judges went over the procedure with me. I walked into a booth and filled in the ovals on the paper ballot. Then, a judge took me to an electric ballot box for my ward. It snatched my ballot, whirred, and informed me I had been the ward’s 183rd voter. In mock seriousness, I told one of the election judges that I had voted early and intended to vote often, because this is Illinois and that’s what we do.

He said with a twinkle in his eye they had ways of tracking me down, but I assured him I was just joking. I left the office, feeling as if I’d opened my Christmas presents early.

Nancy Strain, Rockford’s elections director, said Wednesday that 4,511 people had either voted early or cast absentee ballots. “There’s a week and a half left and we could have a total of 6,000 to 7,000 early and absentee voters,” she said. “If we have an 85 percent turnout, early and absentee voters could make up 10 percent of the total.” The all time record turnout in Rockford was 83.63 percent in 1992, Strain said.

I asked her what would happen to my ballot between now and Election Day. Nothing, she said. “Your vote sits there in the box until election night. After the polls close, we’ll turn it on and it will be counted along with the ballot boxes from the polling places.

“A lot of people have told us they came in early because they wanted to avoid the lines on Election Day, but there are lines here, too, but I don’t think quite as long as they will be at the polls on Nov. 4,” Strain said.

Chuck Sweeny can be reached at (815) 987-1372 or