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Judging by size, fall ballot may be heavyweight

Friday, April 28, 2006
Chicago Tribune

When Cook County voters go to the polls in November, they could be handed a paper ballot consisting of two large sheets of paper.

That's because the names of the dozens of judges running for retention might not be able to fit on just one of the poster-sized ballots.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said Thursday that it's very likely officials will be forced to use a second sheet of paper to handle all of the judges, expected to number around 75 names.

Tom Leach, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said officials are still working with the maker of the voting equipment and are hoping to avoid using a second sheet for each ballot.

"You can only make a ballot so long," Orr said. "We do not want to make the ballots too small that people cannot see them. So yes, because of the 75 retention judges, I think it's very likely that we'll have two ballots in the fall."

In the primaries, the paper ballots measured 22-by-10 inches, causing some election judges to complain about the weight of a stack of them. Some poll watchers said the size also made it difficult for voters to ensure the secrecy of their choices.

In past elections, the judges' names were crammed onto a long, narrow punch-card ballot. But Cook County and Chicago discarded the old system under federal guidelines following the 2000 election. The new system, used for the first time in last month's primaries , combines paper ballots that are run through optical scanners as well as electronic touch-screen machines.

The number of the retention judges won't affect the touch-screen machines, which work akin to automated teller machines found at banks. Both the county and the city plan to have more of them available for the November election.

Orr has said he would prefer to use all touch-screen machines, but so far that prospect has proven too expensive.

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