There were Chicagoans Tuesday unaware that there was a hotly contested mayoral election, through infirmity or indifference.
Some knew of it, but only vaguely, and couldn’t give specifics, like who was running.
“I’ve heard it on TV, but didn’t catch the names,” said Raymond Tatela, 57, a heavily bearded man standing in front of the 7-Eleven at McLean and Damen. “I’ve heard the mayoral election is most important.”
Has he heard of Rahm Emanuel?
Others knew but don’t care — or cared so much about particular passions that voting became impossible for them.
With all the attention on the half of eligible Chicagoans expected to make it to the polls — a big turnout, by our standards, considering that last-year’s February elections barely drew a quarter of possible voters — I thought it might be worthwhile to tap the shoulders of the half that didn’t vote to ask them why.
“I just didn’t really pay attention,” said Trisha Underwood, a clerk at Hats Plus, 4706 W. Irving Park Rd.
Did she know who was running?
“No,” she said.
Not one? Not one candidate?
“Oh God . . . ” said Underwood, thinking. “I met Rahm Emanuel the other day. I saw him at Jewel. I shook his hand.”
Yet, she didn’t want to vote for him?
“No, I’m not very political,” said Underwood, 29, a Taft High School graduate.
“I don’t vote,” said Brandon Robinson, 26, an accounting student at Chicago State University waiting for lunch at the Soul Vegetarian Restaurant, 205 E. 75th St. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“I don’t feel I’m informed,” said Brittany Pisano, 31, a barista taking her cigarette break in front of the Map Room at Armitage and Hoyne. “All the information I’m given doesn’t seem to tell me anything.”
Some had the will, but botched the process.
“I thought I was registered,” said a 33-year-old mother who didn’t want to use her name. “I feel awful for not being registered. The weeks slid past me.”
She also showed a fatalism characteristic among non-voters.
“All the funding is being cut no matter who you vote for,” she said, chasing after her 3-year-old daughter.
Bobbie Knox, who lives at 110th and Sangamon, would have voted, but she had an 8 a.m. flight at O’Hare, heading to Atlanta to visit their grandchildren, said her husband, Hosea Knox, adding he would “probably vote.”
“I know who’s going to win already,” said Knox, owner of Elmo’s Tombstone Service, 6023 S. State. “You know then who went to the White House? That’s who’s going to win.”
Some practical objections grew more complex and heated upon reflection.
“I gotta watch the shop,” said Wing Kwan, owner of Suntek Business Solutions, 754 W. 35th St., a small storefront cluttered with broken electronics.
“To be honest, I don’t really care who is the mayor,” added the 29-year-old. “They are all the same. People behind them make the decisions.” He shook his head.
“They give you promises, they give you hope, and it’s all lies.”
Again and again I was told that shadowy forces make voting meaningless.
“I don’t vote because I feel, as an American citizen, there is a conspiracy between politicians, banks and the Federal Reserve system,” said Aalim Mohammad, a trainer at the Chicago Boxing Club, 3508 S. Halsted, over the thrum of speed bags being punched at the gym. “I don’t vote because of special interest groups and lobbyists.”
The 52-year-old said powerful interests conspire when picking candidates like Emanuel.
“They’re all the same — that’s why Obama sent him — Obama didn’t have a choice. They told him to send him.”
Across the street, at the Bridgeport Tattoo Company, 3527 S. Halsted, owner David Siemers said he just isn’t the voting sort.
“I just never have been a big voter,” he said.
Doesn’t that perspective merely turn over the important decisions to others?
“They can vote for me. In the big sea of millions of votes, my little opinion doesn’t matter.”
The 39-year-old father of three is covered with his trade, tattooed to his wrists, over his neck, a “21” — his nickname — by his right eye, a “312” and a shamrock by his left.
Siemers said if he did vote, it would be for Emanuel and Ald. James Balcer (11th) “and both of them are going to win anyway.”
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