Dispatch from the front...from Sun-Times religion writer Cathleen Falsani who this evening takes on a higher calling... and Sun-Times political writer Scott Fornek...
8 p.m. -- Just as the bulk of supporters began to show up at Judy Baar Topinka's election night bash at the Swissotel, they were greeted by the unpleasant news that the Associated Press had already called the race for Rod Blagojevich. Topinka's running mate, DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, was not happy.
"They're disenfranchising voters in one of the largest counties of the state," a visibly annoyed Birkett said. "It's way to early to call this race, for anybody to call this race.
The AP exit polls -- voters in one of the largest counties in the state are still voting. The polls are open for another hour in Kane County, and I would encourage those voters to keep voting.
"We don't have any numbers, and exit polls have had a poor track in calling these races this early. I mean, trends change, you call know that. It's just way too early. ... I thin it's irresponsible to call a race before the polls have closed.
... People on their way to the polls hear that news, and they don't go vote period. I'm standing up for the democracy we havfe in the state of Illinois and in the United States, and we shouldn't be doing that."
Relying on exit polls, AP declared Blagojevich the winner at 7:02 p.m., just two minutes after the official closing time for polls across the state, but short of the court-ordered 8:30 p.m. closing for all 223 Kane County precincts outside of Aurora.
A judge ordered the extra time because of variety of problems, including polling places that opened late and equipment that wasn't working properly. The AP based its projection on "a statistical analysis of the vote from voter interviews conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International."