New Polling Places, Unresponsive Websites Create Confusion in Cook County

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polling-place-photo2With about 20 percent of Cook County voters sent to new polling sites this year, there was some confusion about where to vote today in Chicago. And problems with websites that would help people find their polling places is compounding the problem.

Heather Boggs, 35, went to the wrong site after consulting an outdated voter registration card. Election judges at two sites sent her to two more incorrect places.

After being turned away at the third site, she said she was giving up.

“I am pretty frustrated. I don’t think I’m going to vote,” said Boggs, who said she had to get home to her children. “I am pretty disappointed. The people didn’t know what they were doing.”

The city website that would tell people where to vote — http://www.chicagoelections.com/ — has been unresponsive this morning, according to searches at the Tribune and to e-mails from readers. But a State of Illinois website has been working, though it too has experienced periodic responsiveness issues based on searches at the Tribune.

A Chicago Board of Elections spokesman said in a news release that the city site was being deluged with unprecedented traffic, “including what we believe are outside voter-service organizations.” It was re-directing traffic to a state polling place finder noted above.

City residents can also find their polling place by texting their name and address to the Board of Elections at: 312-361-8846.

Marisol Cruz was turned away from a voting site on North Sawyer Avenue in Logan Square and was told that she had a new voting site north of there. When she got to the second site, Coonley elementary school, she was told she was in the wrong ward.

“Someone has to fix this,” Cruz said. “I’m not running around anymore.”

There were about 30 people waiting to vote when the polling site opened this morning at Coonley elementary school on the city’s North Side.

Lines stretched about 50 deep by 7 a.m., and some people chose to vote against the wall instead of going into a private space.

“Sorry for the long wait,” election judge Brendan Shultz, 21, told voters in line.

He said there’s energy in the air today.

“This is when it matters. You can feel it’s a big election happening.”

Zach Wasilew waited about a half hour to vote at Coonley with his 7-year-old son, Jacob.

“One of the things about democracy is it can be boring,” Wasilew joked to his son. He then passed the time teaching him the merits of democracy and the definition of a “swing state.”

Democracy, he told his son, “can be boring but it is the peaceful way to make a transition.”

Compared to 4 years ago, Wasilew said, “there is certainly less energy and a massive sense of foreboding.”

“It is way more up in the air than 4 years ago, he said. “The outcome is really uncertain.”

At Silvie’s Lounge on the city’s north side, voters snaked around the small bar and voted near a jukebox and stage.

Andrew Sauer saw the line and decided to go back home, where he works, and return later in the day.

“It’s usually very short, said Sauer, a Romney supporter, carrying his 4-month-old son in a car seat.

“I am hoping it’s close. If it’s close, it means our guy might have a chance,” Sauer said.

Meanwhile, Anne O’Neil, 28, said she voted for Obama. She waited about a half hour and was worried about being late for work.

“But it is election day,” she said, “and it’s my duty.”

People who stopped to vote at the Margate Park Fieldhouse before heading off to work found themselves waiting in line 30 to 40 minutes in a line that extended out the front door.

By 8:30 a.m., an election judge said 116 voters had cast ballots in the Margate Park precinct.

“We’ve had a steady stream,” said election judge Leon Klement. “So far it’s been pretty smooth.”

Most voters apparently weren’t concerned about the waiting, saying it was only a minor inconvenience. It was much better than what they encountered Saturday, some said, when they went to the early voting site and were told it would be at least a two-hour wait.

There were, however, a few minor glitches Tuesday morning, when the only electronic voting machine on the site broke down. People who wanted to only vote for president were told they couldn’t until that machine was repaired.

Early on, one poll worker had routinely asked people to show a photo ID. When one voter objected, another poll worker informed him that it was not necessary.

“We told him that if they’re not in any of our books or lists, then we ask for a photo ID,” said Klement. “Otherwise, no one should be asking for a photo ID.”

Klement said there had only been a few problems with people showing up at the wrong precinct.

With the polls open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Illinois voters are casting ballots for president, Congress, the state legislature, and in hundreds of more localized contests.

Statewide voters will consider a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution asking whether it should be tougher for government to improve public employee pension benefits. Even if approved, the measure would have little impact on the nation’s most underfunded public pension system. Dozens of localized referendum issues also are on the ballot.

Even before today, more than a half-million people cast ballots in Chicago and suburban Cook County through early voting and voting by mail. With mailed-in ballots still arriving, the total was slightly below the 557,161 pre-election day ballots cast four years ago.

On Monday, Chicago election officials issued a cautionary note: two of every 10 city voters have a new polling place this time as a result of the redrawing of political boundaries after the federal census.

Illinois has not been in play during the expensive presidential campaign, with Republican Mitt Romney effectively ceding it to home-state President Barack Obama. But the top of the ticket contest could have coattails in the state’s new 18 congressional districts.

Obama arrived in Chicago early this morning and will hold an evening rally at McCormick Place. In between, Obama plans to continue his tradition of playing basketball on Election Day, a campaign aide said.

 

Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-chicago-election-day-illinois,0,3591151,full.story

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