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Some voters who wanted paper ballots say they weren’t given second page

Voters at the Divine Mercy Parish Center in Winnetka Tuesday November 6, 2018. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

Some voters in at least four Chicago precincts say election officials didn’t give them the second page of their paper ballots Tuesday.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners received “scattered” reports of voters failing to receive the second page of their ballots; several voters also contacted the Chicago Sun-Times. A board spokesperson said that after the complaints, text messages were sent to all election judges reminding them to hand out both pages of the ballot.

Becky Blomgren went to cast her ballot at Metropolis Coffee in the 48th Ward around 7:15 a.m. when she realized something was off.

“I was given one page and went and filled it out and realized there were a lot of judges missing and the referendum,” the 34-year-old said. She told the poll workers she was missing the second page, but, she told the Sun-Times, they replied: “No, we think that’s it.”

She persisted, and eventually, Blomgren said, poll workers called someone to clarify.

“They looked around and they found, on the floor, a sealed package of second pages,” Blomgren said. So she filled out the second page and told people around her there were two pages to the ballot. However, she said her friend told her that when he went to vote in the same precinct at 7:45 a.m., that second page still wasn’t being offered.

A notice handed out by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners for every polling place reminding voters and election judges that paper ballots for the general election have two pages. | Chicago Board of Election Commissioners photo

So Blomgren returned to the coffee shop, 1039 W. Granville Ave., and saw that election judges were asking people if they wanted a second page; most said no.

But “I also talked to other folks after they left and they said they didn’t get a second page,” she said.

The second page lists all 60 Cook County judges seeking new six-year terms; it also has referendum questions on city and county issues.

In the city, that included questions about mayoral term limits and a ban on plastic straws; countywide question topics included minimum wage and sick leave.

Cook County judicial elections usually fly under the radar; it’s been 28 years since a Cook County judge has been voted out.

But at least two judges up for reelection this year — Circuit Judges Matthew Coghlan and Maura Slattery Boyle, both on the bench since 2000 — are at risk of losing this time around after negative reviews from local bar associations. Lawyers and advocacy groups also are calling for their ouster.

The problem of the missing second page cropped up again at St. Sylvester School, 3027 W. Palmer Sq. in the 32nd Ward.

Nathaniel Brewer got to the bottom of his paper ballot and saw that it said the candidates were continued on the next page — which he didn’t have.

So he asked a poll worker about it; the worker insisted, no, it’s just one page.

“I was a little confused,” said Brewer, 31, who left the polling place, then called friends and searched the internet and discovered from the Sun-Times that others had had the same problem.

He then called the election board.

“They were sort of helpful,” Brewer said. A worker there told him they were aware of the issue and it was being fixed. They also said he should go back and cast a provisional ballot, which he was able to do.

Brewer also asked the election board about all the people who had already voted, who did not get a chance to use that second page.

He said the employee replied: “That’s a sad, sad, thought.” Added Brewer: “I couldn’t tell if it was sarcastic or not.”

The Sun-Times also received calls from voters who didn’t get the second page of their paper ballots; those voters were in the 24th, 25th and 32nd wards. Inspectors were sent out to precincts where complaints were made, according to the Board of Elections, but it was not believed to be a widespread problem.

Coghlan, a former county prosecutor, is believed to be at risk in the wake of a lawsuit by two men who claim the former prosecutor worked with disgraced Chicago detective Reynaldo Guevara to frame them for murder. The men have since been exonerated. The lawsuit was first reported by Injustice Watch.

An analysis by Injustice Watch found Coghlan to be one of the harshest judges in the county, often handing out year-long sentences for simple marijuana possession convictions.

The Chicago Council of Lawyers rated Coghlan as “not qualified” earlier this year, saying he “can be condescending and otherwise disrespectful toward non-white lawyers and defendants in his courtroom.”

However, Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association both endorsed Coghlan for reelection.

In September, following mounting pressure for progressive groups, the Cook County Democratic Party rescinded their recommendation for his reelection.

Cook County Judge Maura Slattery Boyle has also been the subject of intense scrutiny this election cycle.

Injustice Watch found Boyle “issues the most severe sentences compared to the 23 other Criminal Division judges who have presided over 1,000 or more cases in the past six years.”

Boyle has also has had 34 decisions overturned since 2012, the most out of all six criminal court judges on the ballot.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.