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Contrary to a statement by a Bush campaign strategist Thursday that no one is complaining about the so-called “butterfly ballot” in Cook County, Illinois, while denouncing the Florida ballot, lawyers concerned about the 77 retention candidates squeezed into the last pages of the Illinois ballot aren’t happy. The Chicago Bar Association fielded several complaints on and after Election Day, and the Cook County Board of Elections is getting an earful as well. And according to a spokesman, the agency acknowledges that Cook County’s ballot could have been better. “People did find the retention pages a little confusing because they were crowded,” said Scott Burnham, a spokesman for Cook County Clerk David Orr. The Cook County ballot, however, is different from the one under fire in Palm Beach County, Fla. Unlike the ballot in Florida, in which voters had to switch from left to right to view and vote for presidential candidates, Cook County’s slate was listed on the left side, with a blank opposing page. Only the judicial retention ballot had the “butterfly” characteristics, with candidates listed on facing pages of the booklet. But even then, voters were asked to make their selections down the left page before moving onto the right. The confusion in Cook County was with the sheer number of “yes” and “no” choices crammed onto a page. Lawyers and other voters complaining to American Lawyer Media say they had to be sure their punch card ballots were precisely in line with the holes, or mistakes were inevitable. Many complained that the ballots were unfair and would be especially confusing for the elderly or anyone with poor eyesight or shaky hands. Candidate names “were a little closer together than we would have liked,” said Burnham, who added that the county will work to “find a way to make it easier for voters” in the future. As it turns out, all 77 retention candidates in Cook County kept their jobs for another six years, likely averting any challenges to the ballot. Burnham also said there is no evidence that retention returns were affected by any voter confusion. “Those figures are comparable to the figures we’ve seen in a presidential election,” he said. There is, however, a traditionally high drop-off rate — with fewer voters taking time to vote for local judges than presidential candidates. The actual drop-off rate will become clear when vote totals are official next week. Bush strategist Karl Rove made the statement about Cook County’s ballot on national television when responding to criticism from Democrats who are targeting a confusing Florida ballot. Burnham became quickly aware that the Cook County ballot had made the national scene when news organizations began calling his office seeking comment. Clerk Orr then called a news conference to respond; he defended the ballot, pointing out its differences from the Florida county ballot that could mean the difference between having a Bush/Cheney and a Gore/Lieberman administration. On Friday, Burnham pointed out that the ballots in Cook County are among the longest in the country and four times longer than any other in Illinois. That’s all because of the retention election. The clerk’s office, he said, had considered two ballots, one for contested elections and one for judicial retention, but reasoned there would be a significantly higher drop-off with the second ballot. Not to mention it would add to the wait to vote and to the time spent tallying votes. Chicago lawyer Gino DiVito said, “Something needs to be done to rectify the situation” and to make the ballots more clear. DiVito, who chaired the Committee for Retention of Judges in Cook County 2000, has said he plans to complain to election officials so that the same confusion doesn’t occur during the next election where there is sure to be another 70 or so incumbent judges on the ballot.

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