Ballot Issues

Ballot issues are particularly easy to miss because they tend to occur during the most private part of the voting process. When voters receive problematic ballots, they are often reluctant or unable to approach a poll worker to report the issue. Even when voters report problems to their poll workers, their responses can be inconsistent because of training issues. These problems often require direct intervention by our legal volunteers.

Issues we observed along the way

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Significant Ballot Issues

Problems with requesting absentee ballots

10 total issues

Why does this matter?

Eligible voters may not know that they can access a mail-in ballot in lieu of voting in person. Requesting absentee (mail-in) ballots is generally a task that has been completed well before election day when a voter knows he/she will not be able to access their assigned polls. Voters need further clarification and reminders that absentee ballots can be requested for emergencies with additional documentation detailing their situation.

Real Stories (1/2)

Voter has had to travel to a different state due to a family medical emergency but didn’t request an absentee ballot. I conferenced in the county board of elections to confirm the process for requesting an absentee ballot and ask what method is fastest – we got the fax number to send the application to, and voter is going to fax that in today. [ID#68889] 

Real Stories (2/2)

Brother wants her to pick up a mail in ballot but didn’t sign up. Supervisor of elections said family member would have to fill out affidavit and the brother has to sign and date… Told her that she would complete the affidavit when she picked up the absentee ballot and could provide a photo id or the voter’s written authorization. 

A look at the data

ballot_requestabsentee_quant2

Absentee ballots lost in the mail to voters

20 total issues

Why does this matter?

When a mail-in ballot never reaches a voter’s mailbox, the voter may lose her right to vote through no fault of her own. Election authorities often do not alert voters to these errors when voters request mail-in ballots. As a result, many voters do not know what their options are for voting in person or requesting a replacement mail-in ballot when this occurs. 

Real Stories (part 1)

Voter requested an Illinois absentee ballot back in August. She followed up weekly when she wasn’t receiving it. Ultimately (on Oct. 31) she was told that her ballot was returned because the “I” in her Washington DC was misread as a “1”. She asked that it be resent. The person she spoke w/ at the City of Chicago Board of Elections said they may or may not resend…as of today, she still has not received it.

Real Stories (part 2)

Lanette requested an Illinois absentee ballot back in August, she followed up weekly when she wasn’t receiving it. Ultimately (on Oct. 31) she was told that her ballot was returned because the “I” in her Washington DC (temporary student address) was misread as a “1”. She asked that it be resent. The person she spoke w/ at the City of Chicago Board of Elections said they may or may not resend; she’d be asking a supervisor. As of [Nov 8], Lanette still has not received it. She’d much prefer to vote in IL over DC. However, [Chicago Lawyer’s Committee] gave her all of the necessary info so she can vote in DC if she doesn’t get the ballot today or tomorrow (must be postmarked by tomorrow).

A look at the data

ballots_abslost_quant

Unclear or vague ballot instructions

6 total issues

Why does this matter?

Ballot designs can be confusing due to the large number of races in any given voting district. Although election authorities may provide online information about candidates for a specific district, they often present this information in a format that is different from the ballot itself. Sample ballots, by contrast, often have the same format as an official ballot but they do not have the specific candidates for a particular district.

Real Stories (1/2)

For early voting in Lemont, can he fill out a paper ballot?… he & girlfriend were told had to use electronic instead of paper until November 8. We looked around in FAQ and online and in statutes and found there’s no right to a paper ballot but he can request (1) assistance using the electronic voting machine or (2) to be directed to another polling place that would be able to provide him a paper ballot. Registered in Cook County to vote (before primaries).

Real Stories (2/2)

Responding to message left for Hotline. Voter is preparing to vote on Tuesday, but was not sure if she will be voting on candidates for all districts for County Board. After checking with Co Election office, was able to call her back and explain that she is looking at sample ballot for whole county; and on Election Day the ballot she will get will have only the candidates for her district.

A look at the data

ballots_vague_quant

Partially-completed ballots

3 total issues

Why does this matter?

Encountering a partially completed ballot can be confusing as well as troubling. In addition to not reflecting a voter’s true choice, a voter who receives a partially completed ballot may be confused about how to resolve the issue and upset about having to confront a poll worker about the mistake. This process also delays the voting process for the affected voters and other individuals waiting to receive a ballot.

Real Stories (1/2)

Voter pulled up her [ballot] sleeve and half of ballot was already completed. Another voter was given a provisional ballot even though they were registered to vote. Only after voter resisted were they given a regular ballot.

Real Stories (2/2)

Completed a ballot that was partially completed; got a new ballot; old ballot was taken away; wanted to report the issue.

A look at the data

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Fragmented ballots

16 total issues

Why does this matter?

Due to the length and complexity of ballots, not to mention voting machine problems, it’s often difficult to know if the ballot a voter receives is complete. This complexity is made worse by the fact that voters who have moved may be eligible for only partial ballots if they are voting in the polling place for their previous address.

Real Stories (1/2)

He said that some of the ballots didn’t include a referendum that should have been on them. The county clerk told him that it wasn’t their responsibility to make sure everyone received the correct ballot.

Real Stories (2/2)

Had to let the judges know that they were supposed to give both pages of the ballot to voters. For the first 6 voters, the judges only gave the candidate ballot.

A look at the data

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Insecure ballot storage

8 total issues

Why does this matter?

Once a voter has cast their ballot, it needs to be counted. Unfortunately, counting machines sometimes break down, in which case paper ballots need to be stored somewhere so they can be counted later. However, many voters express concern that these storage procedures make them feel as though their vote will not be counted.

Real Stories (1/2)

The caller reported that the ballot feeding machine is jammed and that ballots are being stored in a filing cabinet. She is concerned that this is not standard procedure. I reported the issue to a captain, who documented the report.

Real Stories (2/2)

Voter was able to vote, but they were made to use a paper ballot and they put into a box because the paper ballot counting machine isn’t working. He saw at least ten put into the box while he was there. Steel box above the machine but it “didn’t look official,” wants to make sure those votes will be counted.

A look at the data

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