Ward Room
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Election Chairman Apologizes for "Bumpy Start"

Despite issues, Chicago voter turnout expected to be roughly the same as it was in 2008, at 73.8 percent

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Chicago Board of Elections Chairman Langdon Neal said the redistributing process contributed to voter confusion, and voters checking their polling place may have crashed the agency's website. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.

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Chicago Board of Elections Chairman Langdon Neal on Tuesday afternoon apologized for what he called a "bumpy start" to a busy Election Day.

Neal said the redistributing process contributed to voter confusion, but other problems made it difficult for as many as 500 people to cast their ballots.

Confusion over where to vote may have also helped crash the ChicagoElections.com website. Eventually, traffic was redirected to the state of Illinois elections site.

Additionally, at least three judges were dismissed in the morning hours for being disruptive. Some, Neal said, were demanding that voters produce IDs, something that is not required under state law.

Other problems included a lack of ballots and provisional ballots at some of the 2034 city precincts.

Still, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, Jim Allen, said that after the absentee votes are folded in, Chicago voter turnout was expected to be roughly the same as it was in 2008, at 73.8 percent.

Despite the problems in the city, Cook County Clerk David Orr reported smooth voting at polling places outside Chicago. The county went through its redistricting process before the primary elections.

Redistricting caused almost immediate confusion in some areas of Chicago after polls opened at 6 a.m. 

A redrawn city ward map this year meant new polling places for hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans, and though new voting cards were sent out in August with up-to-date locations, Election Day changes remained unclear for some.

Several reports to NBC Chicago stated voters showed up at wrong locations. Several reports came from the South Loop neighborhood, and one woman said in an email that she tried voting at Second Unitarian Church in Lakeview but her name wasn't on the list. She said several others were on a supplemental list but no ballots were available for them.

At St. Chrysostom's Church on the 1400 block of North Dearborn, where six precincts were combined into one location, election Judge Mark Ladd described this morning as "a little bit of chaos."

It took voter Sue Sandberg 35 minutes to get in and out.

"I think a lot of the voters are confused because I didn't know 'til I read my voter card that my ward changed," she said.

Nadine Merker agreed.

"It seemed like there was a lot of confusion which precinct was located where and which actual voting booth was assigned to your precinct," Merker said.

Neal said despite all the changes only four precincts of roughly 2,000 opened late this Election Day because of custodians and maintenance people forgetting to open up early.

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