Prior to this year’s election, Arthur Trumell had never voted.

The 42-year-old, single-father of two admitted to being cynical about political campaigns and, in general, politicians. “Most politicians will say what they need to say to get elected,” he said.

But Trumell is convinced presidential candidate Barack Obama is the real deal, saying the Illinois senator represents “the change to push the country forward. I’ve listened to him speak and read about his policies, and think that he will work for the betterment of all Americans.”

Trumell took advantage of early voting on Monday, casting his ballot at Fredrick Douglas Library, 3353 W. 13th St., one of many locations around the city offering voters a chance to get to the polls before Nov. 4. Early voting in Cook County and surrounding suburbs began Oct. 13, and ends today. City election officials estimate more than 20,000 voters casting a ballot on the first day. Early voting has been going on is states across the country in order to avoid long lines and possible voting machine snafus on election day.

“The turn-out has been pretty good,” said Victoria Evans, a Chicago Board of Elections committee member overseeing early voting at Douglas Library. “We’ve averaged about 200 people a day since voting began.”

Chicago area residents were also able to vote outside their general voting district, a convenience for some, said Evans. “Chicago residents had 51 sites to choose from, and suburban residents had 41 sites. So most people could go within a few blocks from home and find a library where they could vote, which has been a big reason for the large turn-out.”

Evans added the huge turn-out is also due to the collective concern over the current economic crisis gripping every segment of the country. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, approximately 159,000 jobs were lost in September alone. This figure would make it 760,000 job cuts for the year, a five-year high and with more job losses expected through the spring, according to the report.

RealtyTrac, an online property database, also issued a report in early October. On average, there was one foreclosure filing for every 416 homes in August, with Nevada and California yielding the most filings. Illinois has the ninth highest rate in the country. Along with voters’ concerns about rising food and energy costs and a weakened stock market, it all adds up to a sense of urgency by voters looking for solutions, according to Evans.

“I see mostly seniors voting; however, I voted myself the other day because I’m looking to see the next president really work to create more employment opportunities,” she said.

Voter Debra Holloway took advantage of early voting because she was concerned her schedule wouldn’t allow her time to vote on Nov. 4.

“I work two jobs and Tuesday is my busiest day,” said Holloway, a resident of North Lawndale. “I didn’t want to take any chances being caught in a long line on the way to work.”

Holloway added she is supporting Barack Obama because his tax plan would be the first step in providing relief for families, “struggling to make ends meet during the recession.” Concerning Obama’s relative lack of experience as a problem if he becomes president, Holloway recalled the debates, which gave her reassurance.

“I think that he has conducted himself with a great deal of poise throughout the entire campaign, even when he has been called everything from a Marxist to the antichrist,” she said. “He has shown the level-headedness needed to be Commander-in-chief.”

Trumell agrees when assessing Obama’s experience compared to rival John McCain. Though McCain has been in the U.S. Senate for nearly 30 years to Obama’s four, Trumell noted Obama’s inspiration, which will “be motivation for him to give his all in his first term if he is elected.”

See the list of polling places for Austin’s 28th, 29th and 37th wards on page 7.

Special election edition

Austin Weekly News will have a special election issue next week, Nov. 6, covering the historic 2008 presidential election, including coverage at