by: Diane Benjamin
During the March 2012 primary, a couple hundred Illinois citizens descended on poling locations in Mike Madigan’s district to pole watch. I was one of them. Here’s what happens in the “belly of the beast”. Open and free elections DO NOT happen in Chicago.
The poll watching event organizers had many vans to shuttle all the volunteers to our designated polling place. We all went in at least groups of two, more would have been better. My partner and I arrived at our location a little after the opening the time of 6:00am. Immediately we saw a problem.
2 large guys were standing at the door handing voters pieces of paper. They scurried away when we arrived, but returned to their post as soon as we went inside. We would find out later they were handing voters a “sample ballot”. It had the names of “preferred Democrat” candidates, not just every Democrat running. I saw voters with the paper in hand enter the voting booth. Of course this is all illegal, but it looked like business as usual. One voter even requested one at the table when they checked in. Since we were sitting very close, the poll worker acted like she didn’t know what the voter was talking about.
The 2 poll workers keeping the voting book were Hispanic high school girls. A pretty high percentage of the voters didn’t speak English, the 2 girls spoke to each in Spanish. These voters readily handed them a driver’s license as they approached the table. It appeared they thought an ID was required to vote.
There was a token republican assisting with the election. He was also the head janitor at the church housing the poll, so he was called away several times during the day. The democrat assisting was also a precinct captain. He frequently took the voting sheets and checked voters off his list. Also illegal. No one is allowed to touch the sheets. After checking people off, he immediately started making calls to people who hadn’t yet voted.
The church basement had voting for 3 precincts at different areas of the basement. My partner and I could only watch one of them. All the voters came through the same door, so what happened at the other 2 was most likely what happened at the ours. Voting wasn’t heavy, so we were allowed to sit close to the book. Poll watchers have the right to review signatures, we could not. The visiting State’s Attorney told us if we returned for the general election we would not be allowed to sit in the same place. We would have to sit 20 feet away. This is another violation of the law.
In the afternoon a guy arrived with chocolates for all the poll workers. He was on the ballot, so his presence was illegal. Dressed in a pin stripe suit with bright silk handkerchief and matching hat, he looked very much like a 1930’s gangster. He was accompanied by 2 armed security guards. The poll workers said he takes candy to all the polls for every election.
As the day progressed, the poll workers became friendlier. I had long discussions with one of the guys outside. He was a long-time worker for Mike Madigan. He said he could call Mike and get anything his area needed. I don’t know exactly where we were in Chicago, but the guy admitted the area used to be very nice. Now there were almost nightly drive-by shootings. There was a drug bust 50 feet away from the church in broad daylight. The guy had no concept of what Madigan is doing to the state or Chicago. He didn’t understand why citizens outside of Chicago blame Madigan for the state’s problems. He had never seen a cornfield or any part of the rest of the state.
Nothing will change in Illinois because laws are immaterial to Chicago politicians. Mike Madigan supplied hundred of “Madigan” signs to be placed around the polling place. Another illegal act if they are too close to the door, they were. I pulled out many with the permission of the guys outside.
We would need thousands of pole watchers to have any hope of a fair elections in Chicago. 2 people would have to be at every door and another 2 would have to demand the ability to inspect signatures. They would all have to be trained and all agree to be present for the entire day – poll open to poll close. Even then, the Chicago State’s Attorney showed he has no intention of enforcing the law. Madigan’s daughter is the Illinois Attorney General, so she won’t hold anybody accountable. The Justice Department isn’t going to care either as long as Eric Holder is in charge.
Why do the citizens allow this? They don’t know any better. That’s how it’s always been. Maybe Jimmy Carter and team should observe elections in Chicago instead of 3rd world countries. I’m sure they are similar.