In early June, Brookfield’s Tony Williams didn’t know just how to process what was happening in the country. Already in the midst of a deadly pandemic, cities across the nation were experiencing a wave of civil unrest it hadn’t seen in more than 50 years – and a presidential election was looming, one that would turn out to be a referendum on the incumbent, Donald Trump.
On June 1, Williams walked over to the Veterans Circle at Eight Corners, raised his fist and started dribbling a basketball. His #shutupanddribble initiative transformed into a calling, Williams’ way to connect with residents, promote equity and call for unity.
On Nov. 7, shortly after the presidential election was called for Democrat Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris, Williams was back at the circle, basketball in hand – this time to celebrate.
“Today’s dribble was so joyous,” said Williams as drivers sped around the circle, many beeping their car horns in support. “Today was way different. It almost made me feel like it adds purpose to what I was doing for my own personal reasons.”
While Williams’ celebration didn’t compare with what was playing out simultaneously in cities all over the country, his visible joy reflected the way Brookfield residents – as well as those in Riverside and North Riverside – voted in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
For the fifth straight presidential election, all three villages voted for the Democratic candidate. And in 2020 they did so overwhelmingly, something that played out across much of suburban Cook County.
In Brookfield, 64 percent of those casting ballots for president voted for Biden – a better showing locally than both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
Obama never reached 60 percent in Brookfield, while Clinton garnered 60 percent in 2016.
Trump in 2020 came away with 33.2 percent of the vote in Brookfield – a result that was an improvement over his local showing in 2016 when he got 31 percent, mirroring a phenomenon seen in polling results across the country.
Brookfield’s results generally fell in line with suburban Cook County, where Biden took 64.5 percent of the vote to Trump’s 34 percent.
In Riverside and North Riverside, voters reacted a little differently.
Riverside voters chose Biden by 66.4 percent over Trump’s 30.5 percent. Riverside was the only one of the three local communities where Biden outperformed Clinton’s 2016 showing (59.8 percent) and where Trump slightly underperformed his result (31 percent) four years ago.
While Biden also did better in North Riverside this year than Clinton did in 2016 – Biden got 61.1 percent in 2020 compared to Clinton’s 58.6 percent – Trump did noticeably better in North Riverside this time around.
Back in 2016, Trump collected 33.5 percent of the vote in North Riverside. In 2020, he got 37.1 percent.
Cindy Vitek of Riverside, normally a ticket splitter, said after casting her vote that it was time for a change.
“I tend to lean a little more to the liberal side and I have been disappointed with the direction that our country had gone in the last four years.” Vitek said. “I’m hoping for a change and some renewed energy.”
Trump voters said they thought he did a good job even if they didn’t always like his personality.
Davia Backus came to the United States from Lithuania 30 years ago. She said her experience growing up in the former U.S.S.R. played a big role in her decision to vote for Trump.
“Because I came from socialistic country and I don’t want to go back to what I came from,” said Backus after voting at Congress Park School in Brookfield when asked why she voted for Trump.
Backus, 55, was not an enthusiastic Trump voter, however.
“Trump, the way he acts, it’s embarrassing,” Backus said. “Basically voting not for Trump but more like for the Republican Party, but not for Trump actually.”
Brookfield residents Tim and Jeanine Vileta both voted for Trump at S.E. Gross School.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” Tim Vileta said. “He’s a hard worker and I feel more safe with him, my own safety and the country’s safety.”
Biden voters spoke of shared values and their antipathy for Trump.
“I voted for Joe Biden because a lot of his values align with my own,” said Kaitlynn Tagney, 33, of Brookfield, after voting for Biden at Congress Park School. “I believe in climate change, I like [Biden’s] approach to handling COVID, especially over how Trump has handled it.”
One perhaps surprising bit of information gleaned from the township level election data released by the Cook County Clerk’s Office on Monday afternoon is that fewer people cast ballots locally in the 2020 presidential election compared to 2016.
The exception to that was North Riverside, where 43 more ballots were cast in 2020 than four years ago. But, in Riverside and Brookfield, whether because of the ongoing pandemic or for other reasons, overall turnout was lower.
In Riverside, voters cast 109 fewer ballots in 2020, while in Brookfield there were 657 fewer ballots cast, according to the Cook County Clerk’s township level election results.