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For Illinois voters, COVID-19 and recession are top of mind

This November, Illinois will be going to the polls for the presidential, Senate and other local races, resulting in several competing ideologies on both sides of the political divide. At the national level, urban voters, especially in Chicago support Biden while President Trump has support among rural voters. WTTW News Director Hugo Balta joins to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting the races there.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In neighboring Illinois, early voting in the race for the White House begins this coming week.

    I spoke with WTTW News Director Hugo Balta recently from Chicago about what voters are concerned about as they prepare to mail in their ballots.

    So Hugo, let's talk a little bit more about the context of where Chicago and Illinois fit in this political campaign. Just recently you have the governor tweeting about concerns about election judges. Illinois has been talking about the infrastructure and making it possible for people for vote, safely.

  • Hugo Balta:

    And that's really the major is the concern here in Illinois for voters. It's what's going to happen beginning with early voting, that happens at the end of the month, September 24th, and, of course, on Election Day.

    The overwhelming number of Illinoisans have been sending in an order to mail to be able to file their ballots through the mail. We've seen the numbers triple from 2016 to 2020 in regards to the amount of requests to do so. So there's a lot of concern in regards to what we know, how the system's going to work and even in-person. What process, what procedures are going to be put into place to ensure that people that are voting in person will be safe.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    People often forget that Chicago is not Illinois. There is a very different political landscape as you travel throughout the state. I mean, obviously, Chicago is the 800-pound gorilla. It's got a huge number of people, third-largest city. But this is not just a Democratic attempt. This is to make sure that there are lots of Republicans in Illinois, who get their votes counted, too.

  • Hugo Balta:

    Absolutely. You know, you see, Illinois is a blue state. And in 2016, it went to Hillary Clinton. But outside of Chicago, outside of Cook County, in the rural areas, you see a lot of support for President Trump. I think most of the support for Vice President Biden is within Chicago.

    But you're right. I think when we look at not just the general election, but elections within the state of which there are many, including for U.S. senator and Cook County state's attorney's office, that there is a lot of competing ideologies, both on the Republican side and the Democratic side.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    How does COVID-19 shuffle the deck when it comes to the priorities for voters there?

  • Hugo Balta:

    You know, I think it's everything. You know, we are in an extraordinary year, largely driven by COVID-19. And certainly we've seen how communities, both urban and rural, have suffered under COVID-19 from a health perspective, to also the economy and employment. A lot of businesses forced to shut down or readjust for social distancing.

    So what's top of mind for voters is, again, how are we going to who, who is going to get us through this COVID-19 pandemic, understanding that it's tiered and there's an expectation that now that summer is ending, that we're going to see a resurgence of cases and numbers of COVID-19.

    There's also, of course, heightened concern about the economy and what's going to happen once we get through this, as we're getting through this recession. How the markets are handling it and especially for small businesses, will they be able to sustain? I think those are the two things that are top of mind for voters as they're looking at November 3rd.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Hugo Balta, news director of WTTW in Chicago. Thanks so much for joining us.

  • Hugo Balta:

    Thank you very much.

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