City official dismisses reports as 'least effective conspiracy in history'...
By Brad Friedman on 4/7/2015, 7:08pm PT  

At In These Times, author and journalist Rick Perlstein covers reports from some Chicago voters claiming that they received paper ballots today that were pre-marked for Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) in his runoff election against the more progressive Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D):

Around 10:30 this morning, Sam Dreessen, a 26-year-old unemployed DePaul University graduate (and former In These Times intern) who's been voting in Chicago since 2006, walked into his polling place at Kozminski Community Academy on 54th and Drexel, a mostly black neighborhood in the city's 5th Ward. He approached the election judge at the table and, like thousands of Chicagoans on this mayoral election day, received a paper ballot and a felt-tip pen. But, he says, one of the two blanks-the one you fill in to vote for Mayor Rahm Emanuel-was already filled in. Dreessen, a volunteer for Emanuel's opponent, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, smelled a rat.

"I just said to one of them, the one who gave me the ballot, 'This has already been filled out. I want one that's blank.' And he acted surprised. He said, 'I don't know how that happened.' And he even said there had been other ballots with similar problems.' He gave me one that was blank, and I told him more than once that they should look at all the ballots, the ones that hadn't been handed out yet, to see if this happened."

Dreessen says he was too shocked to even take a picture. "And I thought, 'I don't know, this must be happening to other people.' It just seemed to be so crude."

Perlstein details a few other similar reported incidents of pre-marked ballots from around the city in the election which the local CBS affiliate is now calling for Emanuel. The Chicago Board of Elections website currently shows Emanuel leading Garcia 56% to 44% with over 79% of precincts reporting at this moment.

The website DNAInfo, however, dismisses the reports as "Facebook rumors", bluntly describing them as "false", based largely on a response from a Board of Elections official...

"If someone is suggesting that the judges somewhere are trying to slip one past our voters, I think you're insulting the intelligence of our voters," Board spokesman Jim Allen is quoted as telling DNAInfo. "If it were a conspiracy, it would probably be the least effective conspiracy in the history of conspiracies."

The website also reports "voters at the precinct in question, at Kozminski Community Academy...also hadn't heard of any problems." They go on to quote a single voter who says "There were no problems at all, totally routine."

While it seems a bit quick to describe the reports (Perlstein describes several) as "false" with comment from the Board of Elections and a single voter as evidence of that, Allen does make a good point. In fact, there were only two races, max, on each ballot, as I understand it. One for mayor and another for City Alderman. While it's certainly possible some ballots could have been illegally pre-marked, it seems unlikely that voters voting on the only two races on the ballot wouldn't notice.

To that end, Allen's description of this as "the least effective conspiracy in the history of conspiracies" would seem to have a ring of truth to it.

Moreover, it seems reports of a massive scheme to steal the election in this way would be much wider spread by this point in the day, at least if the conspiracy was large enough to have an affect on the outcome of the race. Emanuel currently leads Garcia, according to the Board of Elections website, by some 50,000 votes.

The votes, of course, were either cast on Chicago's touch-screen voting system, or on hand-marked paper ballots which are then optically-scanned by a computer (either correctly or incorrectly --- nobody can know unless the ballots are counted by hand.) I'd be far more worried about whether the results reported by the tabulators are correct than the pre-marked ballot scheme, even if it happened as reported.

When it comes to the systems used in Chicago, made by Sequoia Voting Systems, it wouldn't be the first time that company's tabulators reported completely inaccurate results. Only a hand-count of the paper ballots, presuming the chain of custody has been secure since the close of polls, can let anybody know for certain whether the computer-reported results actually reflect the intent of Chicago voters. But, of course, nobody ever bothers to count ballots by hand, except in cases where, like the story linked above, election officials actually notice something isn't adding up.

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