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Napping Worker Among Problems At Polling Places

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An Illinois Voter Casts Her Ballot. (Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images)

An Illinois Voter Casts Her Ballot. (Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images)

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Updated 04/05/11 – 7:16 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Election officials were expecting very low turnout for Tuesday’s municipal elections. After the polls had closed at 7 p.m., only a handful of problems had been reported at polling places, as voters cast their ballots for Chicago aldermanic runoff elections and a number of suburban elections.

Though a candidate for 16th Ward alderman was arrested after an altercation at a polling place, most problems on Tuesday appeared to be minor. Hal Baskin, who was challenging incumbent JoAnn Thompson, was arrested for allegedly poking a police officer responding to complaints of a shouting match between Baskin and a polling place worker.

Chicago Board of Elections officials said Tuesday afternoon that turnout was expected to be 21 or 22 percent, about half of the turnout on election day in February. Cook County election officials had not provided any estimates of turnout, although it was expected to be slow in the suburbs as well.

At one polling place in Chicago, a poll worker was caught taking a nap on a performance stage at the Joseph Jungman Elementary School, 1746 S. Miller St., where 25th Ward residents are choosing between incumbent Danny Solis and challenger Cuauhtemoc Morfin.

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Following complaints that election judges and polling place workers were falling asleep at the school, an election official came to find the worker taking a nap behind the stage curtain.

The worker said he was exhausted and told the election judges to wake him if they needed him, but the election official told him to go away, and said taking naps on the job was “inappropriate behavior,” Chicago Board of Elections officials said.

In the 45th Ward, at a polling place at 5864 W. Ainslie Street, there was a report of a poll worker asleep at the voting table for at least 30 minutes. An investigator talked to the worker, who admitted that she fell asleep for just “one minute.” The investigator told the worker that sleeping was inappropriate behavior and she said she wouldn’t do it again.

Separately, but also in the 45th Ward, at a polling place at 6224 W. Gunnison Street, a tipster called the Board of Elections to report that an election judge was using the copier to copy board of election documents, broadcasting ballots over the internet via a web cam and “sex chatting” via the internet and showing these chats to at least one female election judge.

An investigator confiscated the copies of the documents and observed that the lap top in question had been put away.

In another incident, an election judge and a building manager got into an argument the Elizabeth Woods Apartments, at a seniors’ public housing complex at 1845 N. Larrabee St. in the Old Town neighborhood.

Election officials said as voters went to the polls to choose between 43rd Ward candidates Michele Smith and Tim Egan, the election judge was heard calling the building manager a “little Hitler” and a “bag of bones.”

An election supervisor talked to the two and was able to calm them down, officials said.

In the Northwest Side’s 38th Ward, two instances were reported in which someone brought candy with a candidate’s name on it to election judges. The candy was delivered to election judges at the North Shore Spanish Baptist Church, 4401 W. Irving Park Rd., and the Chicago Billiard Café, 5935 W. Irving Park Rd., and the candy-givers had to remove the candidate’s names, officials said.

Few issues were reported in suburban Cook County polling places, according to the county Clerk’s office. Sheriff’s police were sent to seven unidentified suburban precincts after reports of electioneering, but no one was arrested.

There was an unspecified confrontation at a Prospect Heights polling place where sheriff’s deputies had to go in twice to quiet things down.

Turnout across the city and suburbs is light at around 20 percent.

No polling places had to open late, unlike in the February election. On that occasion, a case of missing keys left one South Side polling place still setting up booths and machines two hours after polls opened.

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