Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Speak up if something goes wrong in the voting booth

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Originally published on on Fri, 02/22/2008 – 2:26pm

You may have missed this story in the hype of voting on Super Tuesday. Given where we are, we couldn’t avoid it.

On Super Tuesday, 20 voters in Chicago were given what looked like pens to use on paper ballots. When the voters complained that their responses couldn’t be seen and were not recorded, election judges told them it was okay since the “pens” had invisible ink.

They weren’t pens; they were plastic styluses meant for touchscreens.

Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader is one of the best reporters in this city, known for its corruption, in exposing injustice. And even he couldn’t find exactly why judges so grossly misinformed the constituents.

Here are a couple of excerpts from his story:

An election judge gave her a ballot and a pen, but when (Angela) Burkhardt tried to use it the pen made no mark. When she asked him for another, he told her she didn’t need one. And then he uttered the words that will live on in infamy. As Burkhardt recalls it: “He said, ‘It’s a magic pen’ — his words exactly — ‘that uses invisible ink.'”

No one knows why he said this.

By then more than an hour had passed and it was well after 7 AM. That’s when Burkhardt met Amy Carlton, who was also trying to vote. “The pen didn’t work, so I went to an election judge — it was one of the two Republican judges. I didn’t get his name,” Carlton says. “He said, ‘It’s OK. It’s invisible ink and the scanner will read it.'” He then added an assurance he hadn’t offered Burkhardt: “He said, ‘We’ve been trained not to use the [regular] pens. You don’t have to worry,'” says Carlton.


One issue to take from this experience: if something is amiss when you go to the voting booth, by all means, say something. Don’t be afraid to speak up. And follow up for goodness sake. No offense to any election judges, but sometimes they are clueless or sharply underinformed.


Written by democracysoup

February 22, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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