Polling Place in Hyde Park Runs Out of Ballots, Voters Wait for Hours

A polling place at 5550 South Shore Drive ran out of ballots, causing long delays to vote.

By Spencer Dembner

UPDATE: In a statement to WBEZ Chicago, Chicago Board of Elections spokesperson Jim Allen said the lack of ballots was the result of a clerical error. Part of the 37th Precinct of the 5th Ward was accidentally identified as part of another precinct, leading to an underestimate in the number of registered voters and causing the polling location to run out of ballots.

A Hyde Park polling place saw lines of up to two hours to vote in Tuesday’s election, partly because paper ballots were unavailable. Voting occurred inside Montgomery Place, an assisted living facility at 5550 South Shore Drive.

Digital producer and Chicago resident Sierra Council, who was among those waiting line to vote at Montgomery Place, brought attention to the delay in a series of tweets. She said the polling place ran out of ballots by 4:30 p.m. and only had 300 ballots to begin with.

The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, an organization that provides legal services related to voting rights, among other issues, was informed of the long wait times through its hotline. It then worked with the Chicago Board of Elections to determine the cause of the delay.

“At first we heard that there were ballots available on that site but that the poll workers couldn’t find them,” Timna Axel, the Committee’s communications manager, said. “After further investigation we realized that the ballots were at a warehouse, and then we coordinated with the Board of Elections to… the ballots to the site.”

A video posted on Twitter by Council shows that the ballots arrived on-site around 7 p.m. Although polls closed at 7, those still in line when they closed were permitted to cast a ballot. According to the Chicago Tribune, city officials said people who waited in line were eventually able to vote, and they did not have to request extended voting hours for the polling place.