Getting them registered: How League of Women Voters brings new voters to the table

  • Patricia Hayes Lackman and the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County held a rally to register voters in Batavia. "We had a lot of traffic and were pleased with the numbers and the questions we had from people," Lackman said.

    Patricia Hayes Lackman and the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County held a rally to register voters in Batavia. "We had a lot of traffic and were pleased with the numbers and the questions we had from people," Lackman said. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted10/8/2021 6:00 AM

It's not unusual to see the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County set up a table inside area high schools or at various events where many potential voters might be nearby. It's that time of year when the league seeks to register voters for upcoming elections.

With COVID-19 still causing plenty of mayhem, the opportunity to set up voter registration tables in the high schools took a hit. On National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 28, the league had to cancel plans to set up in Batavia High School and instead worked with the Batavia Chamber of Commerce and high school to work at an outdoor location at Wilson and Shumway streets in Batavia.

 
Patricia Hayes Lackman and the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County held a rally to register voters recently in downtown Batavia.
Patricia Hayes Lackman and the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County held a rally to register voters recently in downtown Batavia. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

"Normally, we emphasize being in a high school or community college on that day, but with COVID, we cannot get in," said league volunteer Patti Lackman of Batavia. "We worked with the civics teachers at Batavia High School, and they sent their kids to us, mostly after school, so we had a pretty good showing."

The league can generally expect to sign up more than 100 high school students when visiting a school, but the key spot in Batavia's downtown was attracting all citizens, not just students.

"We had a lot of traffic and were pleased with the numbers and the questions we had from people," Lackman said. "Mostly, people were asking who we were and what we were doing."

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A few would ask whom they should vote for, Lackman added. But that's the kind of advice the league doesn't offer. They want voters registered, and what happens in the ballot box on Election Day is up to those voters.

High school-aged students are good targets for voter registration as they near their initial involvement in local, state and federal elections.

"They don't have to be 18 to register," Lackman said. "They have to be 17, with the understanding they would be 18 by the time general elections come in November."

On Sept. 28, National Voter Registration Day, Patricia Hayes Lackman and the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County held a rally in Batavia to register voters.
On Sept. 28, National Voter Registration Day, Patricia Hayes Lackman and the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County held a rally in Batavia to register voters. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

That change in eligibility when registering has made a big difference in numbers, Lackman added. "We get a lot more kids now. In the past, we would run into the problem of the kids not being 18 until the second semester of school."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It's not quite as easy to get young people interested in politics these days because they see so many negative things on social media -- and politics finds its way into so many aspects of life that previously were somewhat neutral ground, Lackman noted.

She is correct about distractions that weren't as prevalent even five or six years ago. Research company Domo indicated as much in its latest report about what people collectively do every minute of the day: They send 12 million iMessages; watch 167 million TikTok clips; six million of them shop online; they upload 240,000 photos on Facebook, and host 856 minutes of webinars via Zoom.

"I worry a little bit about apathy because things are so overwhelming for people now," she said. "But I will say that we got a lot of positive comments from people when we were working at Wilson Street in the afternoon."

The League of Women Voters takes positions on the environment, education, social justice, criminal justice and mental health.

Patricia Hayes Lackman and the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County held a rally to register voters recently in downtown Batavia.
Patricia Hayes Lackman and the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County held a rally to register voters recently in downtown Batavia. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

"We have a big civic awareness position we take," Lackman said. "We partner with other leagues for civic awareness programs on Zoom or in person, like at places like Cantigny, where we did a program with the Wheaton League."

As for the battle with COVID, Lackman feels there is some time to work around that major obstacle.

"The primary election is not until June this year, so we will be able to put off some things that we would have been doing in the fall," she said. "We will maybe do it in January and February and hopefully will get inside some buildings."

Fire in that wok

After 13 years of molding Wok' n Fire restaurant into his dream job and a popular spot for diners in St. Charles, Mark Bartlett feels the best is yet to come -- when he gets the restaurant up and running at its new east-side location.

Progress on the building at 2801 E. Main St. continues to move along with electricity and plumbing in place and cement work unfolding for an indoor/outdoor patio setup.

"Our kitchen should be open for takeout in two weeks," Bartlett, owner of Wok' n Fire since 2016, said last week. "We're hoping that it is four or five weeks before we officially open to the public."

It's been six months since Bartlett moved Wok' n Fire from its spot along First Street in downtown St. Charles to a bigger location on the east side.

Bartlett sees an advantage on the east side in terms of the area's growth and having the restaurant in a spot with literally thousands of drivers seeing the Wok' n Fire name daily.

He's also anxious for the nearby Charlestowne Mall property to build out with more residential space. New plans there call for some apartments and townhouses.

Success at the new east-side location would be a nice entry in Bartlett's Wok' n Fire diary.

"I used to go to the Wok' n Fire in Addison about 20 years ago, and I loved the food and met the owner, and we became friends," Bartlett said. "He said he wanted to expand, so I put up some money for future projects."

In successive years, the two opened Wok' n Fire in St. Charles in 2008 and then in Wheaton, Burr Ridge and South Barrington.

"I took over the business 100 percent in 2016 and kept the name Wok' n Fire," Bartlett added.

"I get a ton of emails every week asking when I am going to open," Bartlett said. "It will be soon, and I just want everything to be perfect."

Give it some power

It appears the former Little Owl restaurant site at 101 W. State St. in Geneva remains boarded up because the building needs a jolt in power.

According to city spokesperson Kevin Stahr, the city continues to work with Karas Restaurant Group, developer of the property, and nearby property owners to work through some electric voltage upgrades that are "needed to support the planned improvements for the former Little Owl building."

It's been two years since the Arbizzani family in Geneva sold Little Owl and adjoining Flagstone to Nick Smith of the Karas Restaurant Group.

Anyone familiar with electrical wiring and ports in old buildings vs. what some of the newer technology available needs would understand this could be a tedious process.

Still, that building is one of the first that residents and visitors see when heading into downtown Geneva along East State Street.

Throw in the eyesore of the former Mill Race Inn property, and it isn't exactly the stuff of "wish you were here" postcards touting the city.

Let's hope the electricity question really is the last hang-up, and crews get the power flowing through the building properly to have another business opening there.

For the 40th time

The Geneva Women's Club is hosting its 40th annual Arts and Craft Show this year at the Kane County Fairgrounds, a move from its past home of Geneva High School.

It will have the same aspects that made it so popular at the high school -- more than 100 juried crafters, a bake sale and various raffles. Plus, this time, there will be food trucks on site.

The club's event, which raises money to support numerous charities in the Fox Valley, is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, in the Prairie Events Center west building at the fairgrounds.

The cost is $5 per person, with free admission for those 12 and younger.

dheun@sbcglobal.net

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