By SAM RAPPAPORT, Staff Writer
and MARC MONAGHAN, Special Contributor
As Illinois voters flocked to the polls for Tuesday’s general primary elections, some Hyde Park residents found it difficult to cast ballots for their appropriate districts.
Becca Hall, a resident of the 5500 block of S. Hyde Park Blvd., said that, after being supplied with the wrong ballot, she mistakenly voted in a congressional race outside of the district she lives in.
Hall’s address lists her within the boundaries of Illinois’ 2nd congressional district, of which Robin Kelly is the incumbent. However, at her polling station at 1700 E. 56th St., Hall was given a ballot in which the 1st congressional district race was listed.
“For some reason I assumed it was my mistake,” Hall said. “I thought that maybe I had just researched the wrong district.”
After leaving the polling station at about 9:30 a.m., Hall looked up her address on the Board of Elections website to find that she had, in fact, voted outside of her congressional district.
Hall was accompanied to the polls by her boyfriend, who she said also voted in the wrong congressional district.
Hall said, “It’s a good reminder of how everybody really does have to do their own research. I should have gone and asked them about it, I shouldn’t have assumed I was wrong.”
Steven Lucy, co-owner of Open Produce, 1635 E. 55th St., said that he also experienced some difficulty in securing the correct ballot.
Lucy, like Hall, is a resident of Illinois’ 2nd congressional district whose polling station is at 1700 E. 56th St.
“I went in at about 10 a.m. and they gave me a ballot that had the 1st congressional district on it,” said Lucy, who then brought the issue up with poll station workers. “They definitely wanted to fix it but they weren’t sure what the problem was.”
Lucy said that a poll station supervisor eventually located the correct ballots in a nearby cabinet.
Lucy said, “I did get the correct ballot after I asked, but I shouldn’t have to ask.”
Teacher Stacy Davis Gates arrived at her polling place, the Paul G. Stewart Apartments, 401 E. Bowen Ave., at 7 a.m. She pulled her democratic-party ballot out of its sleeve and started to vote. She stopped. Her ballot listed Ken Dunkin and Juliana Stratton as candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for the 5th District of the Illinois House seat. Gates knew something was wrong. She was a campaign worker for Jay Travis, who was running against Rep. Christian Mitchell in the 26th District and she knew that her precinct, the 12th in the 3rdWard, was in the 26th District and she knew that she was at the correct polling station for her precinct. She stepped out of the voting booth and pointed out the error to an election judge.
Gates wasn’t the only one who noticed the error on the ballot at the polling place.
“I can’t even vote for myself,” said Travis stepping out of the voting booth a little after 8 a.m. as she pointed out the error to an election judge.
“We’ve contacted the Board of Elections,” said the election judges as he and other judges picked up pieces of paper, shuffled through some stacks of ballots, keeping their eyes down. Things were messed up.
Travis stepped outside for an interview.
“This is typical,” she said. “I had the same thing happen to me in the 2014 election.”
About 30 minutes later someone came out of the polling place and said, “They’ve found the ballots.”
Travis went back in and voted.
Gates said she wasn’t able to vote until 9 a.m. and didn’t feel secure with the outcome.
“The [judges] were still having problems identifying which ballots went with which people,” Gates said. “I’ve never felt so dis-enfranchised in my entire life and I have been voting since I was 18.”
Travis noted that Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who supports state rep. incumbent Christian Mitchell (26th), is the committeewoman for the ward.
“This is voter suppression of the worst type,” Travis said. “People fought and died for the right to vote, and to see people denied that right – or steered to voting for candidates they don’t support – represents the worst kind of machine-style politics.”