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City election officials: Don’t use that iPad in the voting booth

Hobie Jacksvoted early Museum Broadcast Communication. File Pho |  Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Hobie Jackson voted early at the Museum of Broadcast Communication. File Photo | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: April 14, 2012 8:13AM

Forget which candidates for judge have good bar ratings?

No problem — there’s an app for that.

Some of the bar groups have an app that allows voters to scroll through judicial candidates’ bar ratings on a Blackberry or iPad while they vote.

But the new technology is running into some trouble in Chicago where early voters are finding this sign:

“No personal electrical items to be used inside the early voting polling place.”

Why does the Chicago Board of Elections want to discourage people from bringing cell phones or iPads into the voting booth?

“We’re concerned that people might photograph their votes and that creates the problem of selling votes,” said Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen. “Millions of people have cell phones that have photo capacity. We don’t want people taking calls and having conversations while they’re voting.”

The idea is that a campaign worker would pay a voter to cast a ballot for a candidate and require a photo of the vote as proof.

The board is not making people check their Blackberries at the door when they vote, but asking voters not to use them.

Shouldn’t voters be able to use a “lifeline” — calling a friend to ask advice from the voting booth on which candidate to vote for in a tough race?

Some election lawyers say the new technology presents a gray area of the law. But attorney Burt Odelson said he sees no prohibition in the law against voters bringing cell phones with them into the voting booth.

“I think people can bring into the booth whatever they want to bring in — the statute allows you to do that,” Odelson said. “They can bring their Sun-Times, their Tribune, their bar association judge ratings and they can bring their cell phone.”

Allen said the board would prefer people bring in paper and do their research ahead of time on who they want to vote for.

Suburban voters face no such warning, though elections judges in the suburbs do discourage voters from taking pictures in the polling place, said Courtney Greve, spokeswoman for County Clerk Dave Orr.

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