Elections,sausage…do you really want to know?

I was a judge of election last week in the Illinois primary.  There was less than 25% voter turnout.  Granted, it was a primary, and people don’t like to declare themselves.  I understand, but whether you vote or not, your tax dollars pay for these things, and you should know what goes on.

I have been a judge of election, on and off, for over 30 years. The board of elections like people like me who can take a day off, come in very early (5:15 a.m.), and stay for a long, tedious day.

When I first became a judge, I was trained by Project LEAP (Legal Elections in All Precincts)  They don’t exist any more.  Nobody would give them money.  You’d still have to go to  board of election training, but LEAP would fill in the  details that the board would gloss over, and I will fill you in on the glossed over details now.

Things have gotten better, but in Chicago,  as late as the 1980s, old ladies would come to the precinct & tell a judge they didn’t know who to vote for, and the judge would go into the polling booth with them & vote for the party regulars–-as he was instructed to do by ‘the party’:  the Democratic Party.  Most of those old judges have died.  We are much more free & fair now, and don’t offer any help.  In Chicago, if you didn’t save the IVI-IPO endorsement ad that is always in the  Chicago Reader, you sort of have to guess.  Don’t get me started on the special nursing home elections. Apparently, we have so many  in Chicago that the Board of Elections sets aside 2 days for this. It used to be that the Nursing Home administrator would vote everyones ballots.  That doesn’t happen any more—but there are quite a few people with dementia who still vote, and we have the helper affidavits to prove it.

You don’t have to vote in every race. For the people who want to vote for  none of the above, taking a ballot–especially in general elections—& not voting for candidates does send a message.

No electioneering (that is–touting  candidates) is allowed within 100 feet of the polling place door.  Still, most of us vote on our perceptions, which is how Scott Lee Cohen won the  slot for Lieutenant Governor.  Evey one has their panties in a bunch now, but  come on—the  Democratic Party didn’t know he was a pawnbroker who had unsavory relationships with women?  Please.  Everyone dropped the ball.  But then, Jim Ryan, who  prosecuted Rolando Cruz for murder—and asked for the death penalty & got it…when he was found innocent & a victim of railroading  by Ryan, the media totally ignored that.  He didn’t win, but he could have.

So that’s bad enough…but the BIG problems with our elections are the logistics.

I was a judge in the special election last year, when  Rahm Emmanuel’s seat was up for grabs (Mike Quigley  won with, again, less than 30% voter turnout).  The day was very slow.  One of the judges had voted early.  According to that plan, when we vote early, the application for ballot is supposed to be voided out  so you couldn’t vote twice.  It was not, & this judge was very shocked.  An isolated mistake?  Come on!

Then, counting the number of ballots cast against he number of ballots we actually had…early on, our count was off. Why?  I made the judge count the number of ballots in a packet. There are supposed to be 50.  So he opened 2 packets.  One packet had 47.  Another one had 52.  How can we possibly get them to add up if there are not 50 for sure in every packet?  Yet, how many of us have wracked our brains trying to get the  ballot count to agree with what we had left over so many times?

But my favorite  happened this time. You could vote by either paper ballot or by touch screen.  In theory, you put a card into the touch screen computer & can only vote once. But  our touch screen was registering more votes in some cases.  Had people taken the card out & put it back in before actually casting a vote?  Who knows?  Seemed that at the end of the day, ther was no over vote in any race, but when it came time to combine the vote totals from the touch screen with the paper ballots…the machine would not consolidate them. What was being transmitted downtown was just the touch screen.

Sure, we have paper backup, & printed out the tapes  for each &  put the packets together…but some races were too close to call. Did anyone do a sample recount?  Did they count he provisional ballots?

We’d be better off having the UN monitor our elections. Apparently , over 70% of eligible voters do not care.



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