Primary Elections: & We’re Going to Tell Others What’s Transparent?


Yep.  It is  March 2014, and we’ve had a primary election in Illinois.    That means folks voted on who their parties are floating as candidates for the general election  in November.  We had a  less than 15% voter turnout in my  precinct. That’s right:  of 690 registered voters (that has to be just about every adult in the precinct, which is about a  6 block area), 107 turned out.  I think about  20 voted absentee.  Not really sure. We did get the ‘early voter’ list (hello!  we all had 2 weeks to early vote, every day, 9—7…you could vote anywhere in the city at a time & day convenient  for you), but obviously, lots of people did not vote.

Here’s why:  those  with  the cash and political backing, who got enough signatures to file petitions to be on the ballot didn’t really connect with a lot of voters.  A Republican  running for governor,  Bruce Rauner, is known to be rich.  He talks a good game,and,  has spend thousands of $$$ on TV ads.  Pat Quinn, the  current governor & Democrat, has been a disappointment:  he is not very pro-active, and refuses to address a bloated budget. Our state is in the hole for  around a trillion $$$.  As I’ve stated before,  we  do not have enough Department of Agriculture inspectors, we have a huge make-work project in the  Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity/International  Trade Division (with at least 10 overseas offices duplicating what our federal government does), and  highly paid people  in charge of  overseeing amateur sports.  It’s ridiculous—especially  when we still have the pension fund crisis voted FOR three legislatures ago (meaning money was diverted from the pension funds for public employees—to  poorly thought out programs—& lets ask why  teachers were  never paying  into Social Security—really stupid—especially if your whole career is not spent in 1 school district).

Yep—that’s the mess we have in Illinois—or at least part of it.  Uh, so why do people not vote in primaries?  Aside from having to declare yourself (you have to declare a political party—tho you can declare unaffiliated & vote just in the referendums), lots of people don’t understand that taking a ballot is votingYou don’t have to vote for anyone you don’t know or don’t want.   That sends a message (however—shocking that the  media editors don’t publicize how many people took ballots and  don’t vote the candidates).  I was reprimanded by Democratic poll watchers in the last general election for reminding ballot takers of this fact. They don’t want people  to know that you don’t have to  vote all the races—or any of the races.  In fact, the way the ballot machines are set up, they will tell you you UNDERVOTED and spit out the  ballot—& you have to request an override & acceptance of an ‘undervoted’ ballot.

So much for democracy.

Let me start with  early voting  in nursing homes, however.  Sure, people  confined to nursing homes (& hospitals, actually) should be able to participate and cast their ballots.    But this is not exactly transparent.  What used to happen (as recently as 20 years ago) is that  someone from 1 of the parties would come in as a voter registrar and sign up EVERYBODY to vote  and nursing home administrators would vote all the ballotsWhy?  Often nursing homes have code and care violations (we’re talking Chicago—but I am sure this happens  most places) Our ‘dominant’ party in Chicago is the Democratic party.  Here’s how it works: you vote your residents the  party ticket, and we ignore your violations.

Things have changed a bit.  I am a Project LEAP (Legal Elections in All Precints) trained  judge.  LEAP no longer exists, but at one time they got money to train election judges the stuff  to watch out for that  the Chicago Board of Elections  (CBOE)  did not.  & there are still  problems that come up that  the CBOE  hasn’t trained judges to address.

What went wrong?  You are supposed to get to the nursing home by 8:45 a.m. to start the election at 9—but the board doesn’t send out their employees with supplies until after 8…so they are stuck in rush hour traffic and might not get to the home until 10.  You —nursing home judge—are paid a flat feet for the day…but considering this  has been the problem year after year, you’d think they’d send out the supplies the afternoon before—or starting at 5:00 a.m.?  That’s what they do for the general election. What are we missing?

We have over 100 people in the nursing home I was assigned to who requested absentee ballots. That means some  registrar went in their & got signatures.  Statistically, there is no way he could have gotten  legal signatures for all who applied—as  a huge  per centage are  demented/addled/confused—and were unable to sign their application for ballot.  They  are not blind.  They all ask for assistance. The only reason you can LEGALLY give assistance (and then, it has to either be someone the voter has requested— or a judge from each party) is that they can’t read/write/or speak English, or have a PHYSICAL DISABILITY.  Since when is confusion a physical disability? But those are the choices you are given on the affidavit.  That adds so much paperwork.  I am shocked that the news media  constantly ignores this issue.  So much vote fraud  is in nursing homes. But does the CBOE want to hear from ME, an experienced judge? No.

We experienced judges ask the NURSING HOME ACTIVITIES DIRECTOR (she is in charge of getting voters down to the  voting)  how many people are NON-AMBULATORY (meaning bed ridden). She told me there were 3—and the investigator from the state’s attorney’s office heard her tell me that.  Meanwhile, at this nursing home, we were assigned 10 judges!.  Only 4 had been to training, the rest had no idea what they were doing & just got in the way.

Now,  the Activities Director knows her residence. she knew how many would need assistance, and she  just didn’t arrange to have aids available.  When we have to assist (& remember–most  residents are ‘confused’), we have to read the entire ballot, slowly, to every resident—including all the judges running for office.  This takes  about 10 minutes or so per voter.  You might be able to remind them that taking a ballot is voting, and ask if they want to vote for judges, but  most do want to vote for judges.  Now, most regular, lucid  voters have no idea who the judges are.  As I do court watch, I at least have an inking of who  the judges are. This is how we get bad judges &  other bad  politicians.    Anyways….at about 11:45 a.m., when we should have been ready  to do all paperwork and turn in a report, the  Activities Director tells us that  about 2o envelopes remaining were from NON AMBULATORY RESIDENTS. Remember, I had asked first thing—& she had said 3. When I  confronted her & told her, “You told me there were just 3!”   She just smiled and turned around. These people were on  4 floors.  We had to send 2 teams of judges—and  personnel from the CBOE  and the State’s Attorney up with us.  We  judges each took 2 floors. Thankfully, nobody asked for assistance (keep in mind,  even though we judges explained to each resident how to do this—in front of the CBOE employees and the State’s Attorney investigator), the fact is, most  people  spoiled their ballots by not being able to follow instructions—which the  board will ultimately find out and toss). The CBOE  employee and state’s attorney lawyer agreed with me—that the Activities director screwed things up and added 90 minutes to our day.

Wait—there’s more!  It seems, remarkably, that our  local politicians forget an election is coming up.  I knew in January  that this primary was coming up, and started posting on Facebook and my listservs that judges were needed.  If you were interested in being a judge, contact the Chicago Board of Elections, as you would have to go for training. We had early voting for 2 weeks, but the weekend before the election, March 15 & 15, our alderman & committeeman for the Democratic party started posting on  our neighborhood listserv that there was a need for REPUBLICAN JUDGES. WTF? Why would Democrats be recruiting REPUBLICAN judges—and 2 days before the election?
The response? 
They were needed!  They were needed to be recruited in January and all through February!  If the Republican committee woman needed help, she should have asked.  Insane!  & I asked  about training, and the alderman said  the CBOE was doing training, Interesting—as I took the last training day I was offered.

Now, as I said, I work a precinct with  generally experienced judges. We have to be at the polling place to set up at 5:15 a.m.  They tell you this when you go for training, and it’s in the judges manual–the polls open at 6:a.m.  Yet we had an inexperienced judge who didn’t show up until 7.  She didn’t pay attention in class, nor did she read he manual.

We also had new equipment:  an electronic pollbook. .  Supposedly, every voter in the city had their data entered in—except, I guess, for 3 who came out, who were in our precinct, had voter registration cards, who were on the printed poll sheets, and  were in the printed application for ballot book (which the CBOE told us not to use).  The printer for the  electronic  book malfunctioned several times when we had voters waiting, as  did the  cards to activate voting on computer.   We of course, had to  plug stuff in to extension cords, but  the  main one doesn’t have an indicator light  to show whether it is off or on—and that caused problems.  Now, we were experienced, and the board assigns a student familiar with the equipment, and we got things  working ok without too much  confusion…but I know (from the poll watchers traveling around) that most precincts did not.

Then—at the end of the day, we are  supposed to CONSOLIDATE the  ballots—the printed ones from the  ballot counter with the  data from those who voted on the computer (the computer is  not just supposed to  diminish paperwork—which it does—but  the data is much easier to see and change—-so if you make a mistake when you are voting, you just go back, you don’t have to ask for a new ballot).  I have never been able to consolidate the ballots on the first try,  and sometimes  we can’t transmit, sometimes it is because of being in a basement, sometimes, it’s because we are too close to Lake Michigan (about 500 feet away—there are no transmitting towers), but this time,  while another judge was in the process of transmitting, another judge accidentally  turned off the power strip,and then we got a computer error when we attempted to restart it.

No matter…been there done that…I said we just take what we have to election central and they can  figure it out. We can’t. that meant the ‘form 80’—the  election results for our precinct which could not go to every political party—was  not totally filled out, Oh, well.

Because we had to schlep so much back to  ‘election central’ (we volunteers have to deliver  supplies and results) it turned out we were not the only ones who ‘forgot’ to bring the electronic book/peripherals, etc., and had to go back for it. I asked, “How about putting a day glo stick on this that says THIS GOES BACK?”  Of course, the judges laughed and agreed with me, but the poll watchers & the CBOE  employees laughed and  responded, “BUT IT’S IN THE MANUAL!”

So we don’t really know who  our precinct voted for.  With all the early voters and  people voting by absentee ballot—  including the nursing home voters,  and such a low voter turn out do you think  the snafus were statistically significant? I  hope you remember when George Bush beat Al Gore.

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