Early Voting Goes Wrong in Bronzeville
Just last week while most Chicagoans were taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather, early voting in the 2016 election was quietly underway. So it was no surprise to hear from the Board of Elections representatives that early voting was off to a healthy start. Early polling places were staged and ready, election judges fresh from training alongside veteran judges, some in spring-like attire, greeted early voters like well-known neighbors.
And, let’s not forget the centerpiece of the entire election season – the electronic voting machines. Long-standing, Bronzeville resident and activist, Harold Lucas, decided to be one of the early pioneers casting his vote measuredly. Lucas paid a visit to the Bee Library at 3647 S. State Street, an early voting locale and cast his vote for the candidate(s) he felt best represented his interest. Neither novice nor adept, Mr. Lucas decided to check the printout receipt and compare it to the touchscreen.
At first glance of the receipt, he noticed that the receipt had recorded votes for candidates that Mr. Lucas said he didn’t vote for. In a phone interview, this is what Mr. Lucas had to say: “I’m looking at what they said I voted for. It showed me on the screen what [I] voted for, then I looked over at the little roll, the paper roll and it did not coincide with what I voted on the sheet card.”
“I cast my ballot for someone other than Tammy Duckworth. It had Tammy Duckworth in there, I didn’t vote Mandoza cause I don’t like her at all, she has no opposition. I left her blank,” he said. At which point, Mr. Lucas called over one of the election judges to share his concerns. “I called over the lady and she said maybe I hit the clicks wrong. I said no I didn’t. And told her the sheet is [not] showing what I voted for.”
“She went into the machine and took out the actual slip the first time.. and moved it to another machine. That machine did the same thing. This time, it got caught …and she had to open the machine and pull it out. It did it again on the second machine.”
When the Chicago Defender contacted the Board of Elections regarding the allegations; James Allen, the spokesperson had this to say “The voter began to vote and then stopped and complained that the wrong district and candidate was appearing on his touch screen. At that point, the Early Voting election official correctly deactivated the voter’s card.”
“The voter and the election official then looked up the voter’s information on the districts where he is registered to vote. The election official attempted to present the voter with the candidate list so that the voter could see for himself that the district and candidate in question were correct and did belong on his ballot. At that time, the voter refused to take the candidate list and said that he knew who was supposed to be on his ballot.”
According to Mr. Lucas, “I then had to go over to the desk, redo my paperwork, then she put me on a third machine with a third card and my vote went through the right way in terms of what I did.” James Allen said that their look into the matter showed that the voter went to the election official and said items on the touchscreen were not appearing correctly and he needed to have a new card activated.
He stated “The election official correctly pointed out that the voter had already cast his ballot. The voter said it was flawed. The election official correctly pointed out the only thing the voter could do was cast a provisional ballot. This is the paperwork that the voter completed. The voter cast a ballot on the third machine.” Unfortunately, based on these circumstances, according to James, the provisional ballot has no reason or basis to be counted as the voter has already voted. So regardless of Mr. Lucus’ attempt and his belief that he had corrected the situation, the Defender has learned that his third attempt, which was the way he desired to vote, may not be counted because of the first voting disparity.
Mary Francis Berry, in her book ‘Five Dollars and a Pork Chop Sandwich’ examines the role of election fraud and how it impacts our democracy. In it, a University of Illinois political scientist concludes “The Chicago metropolitan area is the most corrupt in the country since 1976. And that Illinois is the third most corrupt state after New York and California.”
So when you go to the polls tomorrow, be alert to what happening as you’re voting and don’t hesitate to stop and ask for help if you have a question or need help. Don’t wait until you’re finished as Lucas waited only to find out other candidates were selected instead of his initial choices. You can only vote once.
As for the machines malfunctioning “ ..we will have the warehouse staff check the touchscreens to verify the calibration even though there have been no demonstrations by any voters that something was out of calibration,” James said.
Harold Lucas, long time resident of Bronzeville said “All this is about is taking back the real estate. That’s the game. They’re trying to get us off this prime real estate prior to building the presidential library. I am calling downtown to file a complaint.”
To contact the Board of Elections call 312.269.7900.