Pollwatching in Chicago: Where’s the Corruption?

November 2nd, 2010 at 1:53 pm | 5 Comments |

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Chicago is the home of Barack Obama, and a highly political city with a notorious machine, so it’s well worth comparing today’s voting behavior with times past.  I’ve lived here for 20 years, and for the first time I volunteered my services as a lawyer for the Republican party’s voter integrity effort.  The polls in this state’s elections for U.S. Senator and Governor are tilting Republican, and I felt the overwhelming need to protect them from chicanery.  As was noted in Sunday’s New York Times, certain Chicago aldermen (as members of our City Council are known) are grumbling about “roving Republican lawyers” showing up at polling places to watch the proceedings.  Not that there’s anything untoward about this.  Illinois law allows all four of the state’s recognized political parties (the others are the Green Party and the Citizen Party, who are not visible at the polling places today) to assign credentialed “pollwatchers” in each voting place to do just that- watch everything that happens from the moment the voter walks in until they leave the booths.   And if a voting irregularity is observed, we have the legal right to demand that the election judges running the precinct correct it.  If not corrected, we are instructed to take down the voter’s name, photograph him or her and call the City, County or State.  Apparently, Republicans were not serious about this in Chicago until recently.  The party’s efforts seem to be paying off.

Surprisingly enough, at least to me, I’ve just completed the morning rush period without having to initiate a single challenge.  The Republican election hierarchy, mostly posted here temporarily from Washington, have things well under control.  Yesterday we lawyers received our pollwatcher credentials and last night by email, very detailed precinct assignments.  Apparently, the party is so well staffed this year that they even have non-lawyer pollwatchers to sit all day at precincts with a history of voting problems, while we lawyers make the rounds, stopping at each precinct for long enough to learn of any problems, and if necessary, spring into action.  Two myths need to be debunked right away.  One, we are not targeting African-American wards of the City.  We’re all over.  My morning was spent in mostly multi-ethnic Logan Square and Humboldt Park, both heavily Democratic with a mix of gentrified areas, Hispanics and working class whites.  Second, there is no ballot stuffing going on, at least not in plain view.  The most common irregularities are voters who have moved in the last 30 days, requiring a complex sequence of a sworn affidavit, two forms of current domicile, and then voting on a separate machine.  More commonly there is plain old electioneering occurring within 100 feet of a polling place.  The former problem was dealt with competently this morning when I saw it.  The latter problem gets resolved as soon as a pollwatcher threatens to call the police.  Some voters even do it themselves.  All in all, Chicago voting is not corrupt today.

The big story is the depressed turnout, way down from 2008, when favorite son Obama was running and the 70 degree weather seemed celestially designed to maximize enthusiasm.  This morning was clear but cold, and at some precincts I visited fewer than 30 people voted by 9 a.m.  This is about one-sixth of the turnout two years ago during the morning rush.  And today’s voters just seemed different:, more purposeful, more affluent, more likely the sorts who faithfully vote every two years rather than the inspired Hope and Change people who waited in line two years ago.  I saw no college age voters, not a single one.  The scenery and fixtures of every election day in Chicago, the group of candidate signs 100 feet from the door of the polling place, and the Democratic ward committemen’s boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts were there, but this morning lacked the energy of elections past.   It had the sober feel of a dental office, precisely what we should expect on the morning of a GOP landslide.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • TerryF98

    The corruption comes after the election when the GOP starts gerrymandering districts during redistricting.

  • Mulva

    Maybe, just maybe, all the ‘corruption’ was a figment of the republican imagination.

  • Madeline

    But but but… FoxNews told me that ACORN was stealing the election with the help of the Black Panthers and the SEIU. Are you saying that’s NOT TRUE?

  • The American Spectator : AmSpecBlog : Kirk Wins

    [...] today that Kirk would win, a commenter posited that the Chicago machine would steal the election. Here's an on-the-ground account from a Republican poll-watchers who helped keep that from happening. StumbleUpon| Digg| Reddit| [...]

  • Cashmoney

    Come on, Howard, do you think the Cook County Dems are so stupid they’d do their ballot stuffing in full view of election judges and Repub pollwatchers? Hate the Cook County Dems all you want but at least respect that if they’re going to steal an election, they’ll do it without you watching.

    During the decades I voted in Chicago, I saw nothing that differed from how voting was conducted when I voted in Santa Monica, California, and McLean, Virginia.