Despite some glitches at the polls, high turnout expected
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL AND MITCH DUDEK Sun-Times Media November 6, 2012 7:46PM
John Kuzera (left), who has trouble seeing, gets some assistance with electronic voting from his son-in-law, Richard Silvers, while he voted at the Precinct 83 polling station, at the Vogt Woods Building, 6527 W. 171st Street in Tinley Park, IL on Tuesday November 6, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 8, 2012 6:37AM
A long — and, at times, frustrating — day at polling places throughout Chicago ended Tuesday with elections officials still predicting a similar turnout to four years ago, when 73 percent of registered voters in the city went to the polls.
A massive interest in finding the right polling place crashed Chicago’s election website. Unprecedented traffic due to voters searching for new polling places and high interest in the presidential election were to blame.
“We were completely overwhelmed between 6 and 8 this morning,” said Langdon Neal, chairman of the Chicago Board of Elections.
The Chicago site redirected traffic to the State Board of Elections site for voters searching for their polling places.
Because of once-in-a-decade redistricting, about 20 percent of registered voters were shifted into a different precinct than in the previous election. And 500 fewer polling places were open this election cycle because of budgeting issues.
Four of the city’s 2,000 precincts didn’t open on time this morning, Neal said, but said there were no reports of voters being turned away. Board spokesman Jim Allen said at least four election judges were removed citywide, two suspected of being drunk, a third for sleeping and a forth for “shouting at everyone.”
Cook County Clerk David Orr, whose office oversees the election in suburban Cook County, said he expected voter turnout in the county to be less than the 73.5 percent of four years ago, but thinks it will still be high.
Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots said all the polls opened on time and there were no issues with any of the electronic voting equipment, nor were there any problems at any polling places. Voots predicted about a 76 percent turnout, similar to the 2008 general election.
Some people in Park Forest voted twice in Tuesday’s presidential election, but Cook County election officials say the error will be corrected.
Susan Wakeford of Park Forest said she was handed two voting cards for the electronic touch screen machine at her polling place in the Blackhawk Intermediate School. When she questioned the practice, Wakeford said she was told, “This is the way it’s supposed to be done.”
When she inserted the first card, Wakeford said, a ballot appeared with only the presidential contestants listed. After she was finished voting with that card, she inserted the second card in the machine and a ballot with the presidential race and all the other election contests in Cook County appeared.
“I protested again and was told very sternly this is the way it is being done this year and that my presidential vote wouldn’t be counted twice because at the end of the day they divide the number of votes by two to get the result.
Orr spokeswoman Courtney Greve said the incident happened early on Tuesday, but was corrected before many people voted.
“Apparently, what happened is that some election judge was confused because people voting by paper ballot did get two different paper ballots, due to the judicial retention races,” she said.
“An election judge apparently misunderstood the instructions and handed out two voting cards to people using the touch screens, one with a presidential-only ballot that is used for people who have recently moved,” Greve said. “The other voter card was for the full ballot, including the presidential election.”
Greve said the presidential-only ballots are easily nullified, negating the two votes cast by those who were handed two voting cards.
“We believe this was only one election official who became confused by the directions,” Grieve said.
Nevertheless, a spokeswoman for the Illinois attorney general’s office said a team of lawyers had been dispatched to the Park Forest polling place to investigate the incident.
Contributing: Phil Kadner