Voters say they were handed wrong ballots

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By KATIE DREWS

A number of Forest Park residents who voted in the Nov. 2 election at Betsy Ross Elementary School reportedly received the wrong ballots, filled them out and turned them in before realizing the error.

The polling station at Betsy Ross, located in Proviso Township's 76th precinct, had four different ballots which varied depending on which precinct a voter resided. Some voters have questioned whether the judges knew about the variations when they handed out the ballots to residents.

Forest Park resident Elisabeth Strong, who looked at her sample ballot online the night before Election Day, went to Betsy Ross at around 6:20 a.m. and noticed that the ballot she received had listed candidates in the 1st district, though she expected to see names from the 16th district. She asked an election judge about the issue and was told that the sample online was probably wrong.

So, Strong filled out the form and cast her vote. After calling the candidates' offices later, she confirmed that she was, in fact, supposed to have voted in the 16th district.

"To me, it looked like there was one ballot and they were just passing it out," Strong said. "It didn't look like they knew there was a difference."

Strong told her husband to be on the lookout when he voted at Betsy Ross a few hours later. Sure enough, he also received the wrong ballot. He pointed it out immediately, though, and asked the judges to open up another package of ballots, which turned out to be the correct one for him.

"I compared them and showed them where they were different," David Strong said. "You would think that they should know more than the people coming in the door."

Cathy Walz, 50, voted electronically around 9:30 a.m. at Betsy Ross, and just after she submitted the ballot, she realized that the form had listed Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois' 4th congregational district, even though she resides in the 3rd congressional district represented by Daniel Lipinski.

"I made my choices," Walz said. "It wasn't until later when I realized that I hadn't seen names that I expected to see."

The same thing happened to 38-year-old Rebecca Vnuk, who also voted electronically at Betsy Ross around 8 a.m. that morning.

"It occurred to me later that I didn't vote for anybody in Dan Lipinski's race," Vnuk said. "My first thought, was gee, maybe he's not running this time."

A representative for the Cook County Clerk's Office said they only received one phone call about a wrong ballot that morning, and after minor investigating, they attributed that specific report to a judge's error. The judge likely entered the wrong digit in the woman's activation code, spokeswoman Courtney Greve had said.

After more people voiced their concern after the Review first reported the story online on Election Day, the newspaper followed up with the Clerk's Office again.

Gail Siegel, communication director, said they have been investigating Betsy Ross and continue to do so. They believe that one of the four ballot styles was missing for a period of time.

"I believe it was remedied as soon as they figured out the problem, but it should have been remedied before the polls opened," Siegel said. "This complaint is being further investigated because it is very serious if someone was not able to vote their proper ballot."

She said the evaluation of judges continues beyond Election Day, as they "try to pull out the weeds." The person responsible, in this case, could be penalized in an appropriate manner, she said.

"There are a lot of moving parts," she added. "There are 11,000 judges and occasionally they make mistakes. We try to have a number of checks and balances so that there are the fewest mistakes as possible. ...Overall, things went smoothly this year, and we actually got far fewer complaints than we've gotten in the past."

Even so, the residents who voted on wrong ballots seemed frustrated that any mistake happened during the election.

"You go vote, and it's kind of like, for what?" Elisabeth Strong said. "It's not truly what you wanted."

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