UPDATED: 11/3/2014 5:42 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — City election officials had to send out scores of standby election judges on Tuesday, after a shortage of workers at polling places throughout Chicago.
CBS 2’s Pam Zekman reports election officials called the severe shortage of judges “much worse than ever before.” Some polling places had no election judges, or only one, when they were supposed to open at 6 a.m.
Chicago Election Board spokesman Jim Allen said at least 2,000 judges didn’t not show, and the total could be even higher, perhaps 3,000. The reason: Judges received a bogus robocall over the weekend, falsely informing them they had to report for training, or they would not be able to serve on Election Day.
“This is a new dirty trick,” said Allen, adding that in a typical year about 1,500 judges are absent.
A judge allowed four polling places will stay open until 8 p.m. due to the problems: 3550 N. Lakeshore, 6935 N. Sheridan, 1700 E. 56th Street, and 1455 S. Wabash.
Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Chairman Langdon Neal said at least one precinct in all 50 wards had a problem with election judges not showing up, and the city had to enlist the help of all 250 standby judges.
“We got off to a very bumpy start. We had a lot of precincts that … did not have a full complement of judges, and in some occasions we had to get standby judges out to even open the polls. So it was a significant impact,” Neal said.
According to Neal, the shortage of election judges was largely the result of the “malicious” robocalls.
In other cases, dozens of judges reported receiving calls demanding they vote a certain way in order to serve as election judge.
“If someone’s gonna go to all this trouble for us, what are they gonna do if they just call average voters? They’re not gonna be as inclined, they’re not gonna know who to call if they’re getting misinformation,” said Danny Bravman, an election judge who said he received multiple calls.
Neal said the messages were completely false, and he believes it was a plan to disrupt the election, and perhaps keep down vote totals in Chicago.
“We feel that there was malicious intent, and so we’ve contacted our judges to make sure that that process goes smoothly,” he said.
Election officials said some judges quit after receiving the misinformation.
Neal said the problem should not affect elections. City election officials were contacting voters they believe were not able to cast ballots Tuesday morning due to polling places opening late, and asking if they could come back to cast a ballot later Tuesday.
“We’ve sorted it all out. We have redundant systems in place. We are conducting the election very smoothly now, but this morning it did have a negative impact on us,” he said.
Neal said officials will decide later Tuesday if any polling places need to stay open late as a result of voters being turned away in the morning, depending on whether those voters can get back to cast their ballots before polls are scheduled to close at 7 p.m.