No Heat, Racist Remarks, Judges Removed: A Roundup of Polling Place Problems in Chicago’s Municipal Election

Election officials confirmed that at least two judges were removed following incidents at their precincts Tuesday

As voters headed to cast their ballots on Election Day in Chicago, many began reporting issues at polling places across the city from late opens to racist comments and electioneering. 

Election officials confirmed that at least two judges were removed following incidents at their precincts Tuesday. 

One judge, located in the 35th precinct of the 26th Ward, was removed after she allegedly encouraged voters to support a specific aldermanic candidate on the ballot, according to Chicago Election Board spokesman Jim Allen. As the judge was being investigated, Allen said she made racist comments, left the building and came back with another person who had a "threatening or menacing presence." 

She was ultimately ordered to be removed, officials said. 

A second judge was removed in Precinct 26 of the 34th Ward for "verbal abuse and lack of cooperative behavior with other judges," Allen said. 

In the 45th Ward, a polling location in the 3rd precinct was not set up on time and voting did not begin until after 8 a.m. 

"We are going to court to seek an order to extend voting there at Precinct 3 of Ward 45 only through 8 p.m.," Allen said. 

Seperately, officials were also investigating a second location with two precincts that may have opened late. 

Judges were praised after a precinct in the 5th Ward opened on time despite having no heat or electricity. 

"They managed to use an auxiliary ballot box until the power could be restored once the property owner arrived to repair two blown fuses," Allen said. 

A shooting was reported nearing a polling place in the 12th Ward. Shots were fired in the 3400 block of South Hamilton Avenue, but no victims were reported, police said. 

Authorities said the shooting was not related to the election and the offender was caught and a handgun was recovered. 

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, voter turnout was on pace to end with historically low numbers, officials said Tuesday afternoon, unless a surge of late votes pour in before polls close. 

Just before 1 p.m., the Chicago Board of Elections reported voting totals for the municipal election were slightly over 303,000. Of that total, only 55 percent have come from Election Day. 

"Normally at this hour we would be way ahead of that," Chicago Election Board spokesman Jim Allen said Tuesday afternoon. 

With just hours left until polls close across the city at 7 p.m., that would put Election Day on pace to end with around 30 percent of registered voters casting ballots. The current record low sits at 33.08 percent, which was recorded in 2007. 

"If there was ever a time where your vote counted more I can’t think of one," Allen said. 

Allen noted that of the voters reporting at polling places so far, many were 55 years and older, marking a shift from the November election, which saw a surge in millennial voters.

"Maybe later this afternoon we might see something similar to what we saw in the November election and that was a lot of voters coming in in the final hours," he said. 

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