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'Malicious' Robocalls Leave Chicago Short Of Thousands Of Election Judges

UPDATED: 11/3/2014 5:42 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- City election officials had to send out scores of standby election judges on Tuesday, after a shortage of workers at polling places throughout Chicago.

CBS 2's Pam Zekman reports election officials called the severe shortage of judges "much worse than ever before." Some polling places had no election judges, or only one, when they were supposed to open at 6 a.m.

Chicago Election Board spokesman Jim Allen said at least 2,000 judges didn't not show, and the total could be even higher, perhaps 3,000. The reason: Judges received a bogus robocall over the weekend, falsely informing them they had to report for training, or they would not be able to serve on Election Day.

"This is a new dirty trick," said Allen, adding that in a typical year about 1,500 judges are absent.

A judge allowed four polling places will stay open until 8 p.m. due to the problems: 3550 N. Lakeshore, 6935 N. Sheridan, 1700 E. 56th Street, and 1455 S. Wabash.

Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Chairman Langdon Neal said at least one precinct in all 50 wards had a problem with election judges not showing up, and the city had to enlist the help of all 250 standby judges.

"We got off to a very bumpy start. We had a lot of precincts that … did not have a full complement of judges, and in some occasions we had to get standby judges out to even open the polls. So it was a significant impact," Neal said.

According to Neal, the shortage of election judges was largely the result of the "malicious" robocalls.

In other cases, dozens of judges reported receiving calls demanding they vote a certain way in order to serve as election judge.

"If someone's gonna go to all this trouble for us, what are they gonna do if they just call average voters? They're not gonna be as inclined, they're not gonna know who to call if they're getting misinformation," said Danny Bravman, an election judge who said he received multiple calls.

Neal said the messages were completely false, and he believes it was a plan to disrupt the election, and perhaps keep down vote totals in Chicago.

"We feel that there was malicious intent, and so we've contacted our judges to make sure that that process goes smoothly," he said.

Election officials said some judges quit after receiving the misinformation.

Neal said the problem should not affect elections. City election officials were contacting voters they believe were not able to cast ballots Tuesday morning due to polling places opening late, and asking if they could come back to cast a ballot later Tuesday.

"We've sorted it all out. We have redundant systems in place. We are conducting the election very smoothly now, but this morning it did have a negative impact on us," he said.

Neal said officials will decide later Tuesday if any polling places need to stay open late as a result of voters being turned away in the morning, depending on whether those voters can get back to cast their ballots before polls are scheduled to close at 7 p.m.


Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen said there were a number of other reasons some judges did not show up Tuesday morning.

"The robocalls definitely didn't help," he said. "Either with their job, or their college courses, or a medical emergency in their family; but then we had other judges simply did not show up, without warning."

Overall, 5 of the city's 2,069 precincts might need to stay open late, Allen said.

Among the polling places with a shortage of judges, a precinct in the 10th Ward, and another in the 42nd Ward had only one judge each. In the 44th Ward and the 5th Ward, there were polling places with only two judges. In the 42nd Ward, another polling place that has two precincts had only four judges. The city was sending backup judges to all of those polling places.

"People were waiting to vote and we couldn't let them vote. We had to ask them to come back and some couldn't so they didn't get a chance to vote today," said election judge Mary Condon.

A handful of other problems were reported at polling places in the Chicago area on Tuesday.

A polling place in the South Loop opened on time, but sources said voting was delayed at least an hour due to equipment issues, and a shortage of poll workers.

When the polling place at 14th and Wabash opened its doors at 6 a.m., voters were told there were not enough election judges to allow people to cast their ballots. Voters said 30 to 40 people were turned away.

Richard Jordan showed up at 6:05 a.m., planning to vote before work, but he said poll workers blamed malfunctioning equipment before turning him away.

"The machines weren't working. … They said come back in an hour or so," he said. "I was mad, because I planned my day, adjusted my schedule, to come over here early; and we're being disenfranchised."

Just before 7 a.m., an hour after polls were supposed to open, the polling site at 14th and Wabash saw its first ballot cast on Election Day.

In west suburban LaGrange, the polling place at 203 S. Kensington Ave. was staying open because of a shortage of election judges, though that problem was not a result of the robocalls in Chicago. The robocalls specifically targeted Chicago election judges.

Meantime, power outages effected voting places at two schools in Palatine late Monday morning -- Fremd High School and Paddock Elementary School. No voters were turned away from those polling places, as machines were moved to well-lit areas after the power went out.

In Lake County, following locations will be open until 9 p.m. to allow voters to register and then vote in today's election:

Lake County Clerk's Office, 18 N. County St., Room 101, Waukegan
Lake County Central Permitting Facility, 500 W. Winchester Road, Libertyville
Gurnee Village Hall, 325 O'Plaine Road, Gurnee
North Chicago City Hall, 1850 Lewis Ave., North Chicago
County Clerk Annex, 415 Washington St., Waukegan

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