Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Election Officials Probe Use of 'Magic' Invisible Ink Pens in 49th Ward

The Chicago-Tribune reports:

Chicago election officials Tuesday afternoon were trying to unravel the mystery of the incredible invisible ink.

It's no Agatha Christie novel but a real case for election investigators sent to the 49th Ward's 42nd precinct Tuesday morning, after 20 ballots were cast with "magic" invisible ink pens.

Election officials just smirked, shook their heads in disbelief and called it the most bizarre election snafu in recent memory.

Apparently, said city election board spokesman James Allen, the poll workers told incredulous voters—including one spouse of an election judge—that the stylus used for touch-screen voting was actually an inkless pen to fill out paper ballots.

"You spend months trying to prepare for every contingency," Allen said. "Trying to anticipate every possible way people might be confused . . . then this? Incredible."

Even the ballot scanning machine knew better, he said, rejecting all 20 ballots as blank.

"Each time, the judges overrode the scanner and recorded the vote," he said.

By 3 p.m., only five of the 20 voters had been contacted to return to recast their votes.

"I'm incredibly angry, and I feel so dumb," said Amy Carlton, 38, of Rogers Park. "And I am not a dumb person."

Carlton said all the judges at the polling place insisted that they had been trained in the use of the "magic" pens.

"I've voted before," Carlton said. "I was thinking, 'This is crazy,' but when someone in authority insists, what are you supposed to do?"

Election officials were encouraging any affected voters to call 312-269-7870. They said those voters can recast their votes if they return to the polling place.

Democratic judge Diane Flowers reaches for a new ballot for Geraldine Cobbs (far right), who spoiled her ballot by going over the lines at the LaFollette Park field house in Chicago's 37th Ward on Tuesday. (Tribune photo by Chuck Berman)