Some Chicagoans Were Given Incomplete Ballots When They Voted Today

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Nov 8, 2016 9:23PM

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But did you really? Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Cook County, we have a problem. Many Chicago voters from precincts around the city are reporting that they received incomplete ballots when they voted today—and some of them never got to vote on the ballot referendums at all.

Depending on whom you ask, voting in the Chicago area this Tuesday has been either a walk in the park (or a trip to the brewery), or a rollercoaster of long lines, out-of-line election judges, or incomplete ballots.

But according to some Twitter users and Redditors who commented on the Chicago Board of Election's official election thread, the incomplete ballot problem cited by some voters is worse than we thought:

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We also spoke to a Rogers Park woman this morning who said she was initially handed an incomplete ballot, but the problem was corrected after she pointed it out to an election judge who did not know there was another page, and then received help from a second election judge.

If this happened to you, sorry, but you're out of luck: the Board of Elections says there's no way to recast your ballot, because ballots are anonymous and no one can prove who did not receive the referendums page. Trying to vote again would effectively mean voting twice.


Updated 4:30 p.m.
: Voter Lauren Edson, 29, told Chicagoist via email that she was not able to vote on the second page of the ballot at her precinct at St. Matthias School at 4910 N. Claremont Ave. this morning, around 6 a.m.

She wrote: "I received only one ballot (front and back page) containing the official elections. When a fellow voter questioned where the amendments were, the polling official informed us that we needed to ask for the second ballot if we wanted it; it would not be given to us unless we asked. Several of us then asked for the second ballot, and we were given sample ballots to complete. When we stated that this was not the correct ballot, the officials stated these were the only ballots they had on site and that we were essentially out of luck."

Edson says she hopes the problem was corrected quickly, though; her boyfriend voted at the same place about 20 minutes later, and he said that by then the election judges had "found" the second pages and voters were able to complete them.


Updated 4:55 p.m.
: Voter Laura Oakley, 27, told us via email that she received an incomplete ballot at Precinct 9, Ward 1 when she went to vote around 6:30 a.m.

"I asked about the Lockbox Amendment not being on my ballot and was told that there was nothing that they could do and I should cast my ballot and then call the Illinois Board of Elections," she wrote in an email. "I called the Board of Elections and was told there was nothing they could do for me because I had already cast my ballot, but they were looking into it."

Oakley says the situation was concerning to her.

"I worry that several hundred people voted within that first hour without having the opportunity to vote on the amendment," she said. "Additionally, what is concerning to me is that the election judges appeared to be aware that they didn't have the full ballot but were not warning voters that they weren't being given the full ballot before voting."

Jim Allen, Board of Elections spokesman, told Chicagoist that the problem was "mostly a morning issue" for precincts with paper ballots.

He said the board did everything it could to train election judges and share signs and graphics with them demonstrating that there would be two paper ballots per voter, not one. Still, some people did not get the message in time.

"We already have one of the biggest ballots in the country and you cannot fit all of the offices, the judges, the retention judges, and this very, very wordy constitutional amendment question plus all the other referendum questions on there on both sides of the same sheet," he said. "We've had two ballot pages before at least three other times," in recent years, he added. "Once [the problem] was caught, the judges gladly provided both ballots."

It is not up to the Board of Elections to determine whether the referendum questions should be thrown out due to the mix-up. Instead, people would have to contest the outcome of the vote in front of a judge.

The referendum questions must receive at least 60 percent of the vote to go through, and a blank ballot equals a "no" vote, he said. "So for some people that may have worked out, for others it may not."

According to the Tribune, election investigators noted that at a 36th Ward precinct, the first 70 voters were not given ballots with the Lockbox Amendment, and at another precinct, an election judge was only giving the second ballot page to voters who asked for it: meaning just 3 out of 128 voters received it.