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No hesitation for voters who headed to the polls

High turnout in Ogle County

When Oregon election judge Kathe Wilson arrived for work on Election Day the first thing she noticed was how few ballots they had due to more mail-in and early voters.

“This is about a fourth of what we usually have,” Wilson said. “It’s been a slow trickle since this morning. One of the ladies has been diligently cleaning. It still makes for a busy day. We were up at 3 a.m. this morning.”

Oregon’s voting precinct at the United Methodist Church saw its largest amount of voters on Tuesday from 6-9 a.m., Wilson said.

Nearly 300 votes had been cast by 1:30 p.m. at the Oregon precinct, election judge Tom Izzo said. He’s worked as an election judge for 20 years in different counties that he’s lived in.

Roxy Daniels was an election judge for the first time Tuesday at the location. She and Izzo both wore face shields at their table and other judges at the location touted the personal protective equipment they had for Nov. 3 that was far greater than for the primary in March, at the start of the pandemic.

Shirley Henson-Gilbert of Oregon was one of the voters who came out on Tuesday to vote.

“I had no second thoughts,” Henson-Gilbert said. “I think the president we have now is the right man for the job. I came out because I hope the right candidate gets it.”

Nearly 500 votes had been cast at the voting precinct at Mt. Morris Village Hall by 2 p.m. Tuesday. Election judges Sandra Stengel and Gretchen Diab said they were surprised by the number of voters who came out.

“There’s surprisingly been a lot of people,” Stengel said. “I just think they’re engaged and care a lot about this election. And since we had such a long list of mail-in and early voters, I didn’t think we’d see this many people.”

Two different voters walked into the precinct wearing apparel supporting President Trump before being told to remove it. They complied, and Stengel said that hadn’t happened much at the location.

Oregon High School junior Isaac Brooks and Byron senior Collin Hardy worked at the precinct as election judges. Hardy plans to major in political science in college and Brooks said he chose to do it to see how the process works up close.

One voter the pair helped on Tuesday was Libby Mott, who had no second thoughts about voting in person.

“I just always vote,” Mott said. “Because somebody has to. I had no concerns. Because this is the way I’ve always voted. And I’m too old to change my ways.”

In Forreston, election judges had a line of people waiting for them to open on Tuesday.

“We had about 40 people waiting at the door this morning,” said Michelle Drayton. “Some people like to come in before work. My husband was one of them.”

A steady stream of voters made their way to cast their ballots for Forreston and Baileyville precincts throughout the morning.

“We’ve had a lot of turnout,” Drayton said at noon. “We’ve been very busy, but people have been very understanding and patient. We’ve had a lot people say they haven’t voted in years.”

Richard Gollmer, of Forreston, was one of those people who couldn’t remember the last time he had cast a ballot. When he tried to check in at Forreston 3 precinct he was told he’d have to go to the courthouse in Oregon to register.

“I voted years ago, but I haven’t been back to vote,” he said noting his job takes him out of the state. “I’ve been a Democrat for years, but this time I’m going Republican. I don’t want to see Communism in the United States.”

Wyatt Hammer of Forreston decided to cast his ballot on Election Day because he had also been out of the area.

“I thought why not just vote on Election Day. Besides, I was in college,” he said.

Deanne Groen, 53, and her son Gage Offill, 18, of Shannon, came to the polls as first time voters.

She said she came to vote for Donald Trump. “But if Biden makes it, I’m an easygoing person,” she said.

Gage, wore his Trump cowboy hat and “Four More Years” T-shirt to the polls, but was asked to remove the hat and turn his shirt inside out before voting.

“I was at the Trump rally in Dubuque, Iowa two days ago,” he said. “I like him because he’s more open about the Constitution, rights, and God. He’s trying to keep us free.”

In Polo, Gabriel Boothe, 18, of Polo, was also making his first trip to vote.

“My dad was supposed to come with me, but he’s home taking a nap,” he said. “I was very excited to vote. I’m not the biggest fan of everything Donald Trump does but I like his economic policies.”

Election judge David Donald said the Buffalo precincts had a line of around a dozen people when they opened the doors to the Polo Senior Center.

“It’s been steady all day so far,” he said noting that 537 people had cast ballots out of 1,631 by 1 p.m. “It’s been very good and subdued.”

Shellie Graden of Polo brought her 11-year-old son, Austin Gebel, with her to the polls to complete his studies on the Constitution.

“We are homeschooling because of COVID and we just did a whole unit on the Constitution. I brought him along to see how it all works,” she said.

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