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McHenry County poll workers say voting extension wasn't communicated to them

Under emergency order, polls were to stay open until 8:30 p.m., but voters report at least 1 polling location closed at 7 p.m.

Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 11:05 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 3:32 a.m. CDT
Caption
Candace H. Johnson Voters check-in during Election Day at the Lakefront Park Building in Fox Lake.

WOODSTOCK – Polls in McHenry County were ordered to stay open until 8:30 p.m. today after problems with the electronic poll books in several precincts caused delays for some voters; however, voters at two locations said election judges were not made aware of the change.

McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan said the polls would be allowed to stay open until 8:30 p.m. — an extra 90 minutes — after an emergency court order was granted.

Mike Dayton of Crystal Lake said he tried to vote at Bethany Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake for Algonquin Precinct 10 about 7:05 p.m. and was turned away. He said several other people waiting outside the church also were not able to vote.

Three voters who stayed at the church to find out if they would be allowed to vote were eventually allowed to cast ballots about 7:45 p.m. after initially being told they might have to vote at another location. Workers at the polling place said those ballots would be sent to the county clerk's office.

Chris Kubacki of Crystal Lake, the technical judge at that church, said the workers at the station received no official word they were supposed to stay open past 7 p.m. and closed down voting equipment. He said workers had called the clerk's office throughout the day regarding various issues and received only answering machines.

LIVE COVERAGE: McHenry County votes in Illinois primary election

Brice Alt, one of the voters who stayed and voted, said he arrived just after 7 p.m. after seeing news reports about the voting extension. He estimated about 10 other people seeking to vote left when workers closed the poll.

"I only came after 7 because I read that I could," Alt said. "It's not a case of, I couldn't make it before now. I was taking advantage of a situation I thought would work in my favor, but it worked against me."

Leslie Ross was a technical judge at Immanuel Lutheran Church for Algonquin precinct 2 and said she also was never notified about the extension.

“It is a long day, and it’s frustrating on many levels,” Ross said.

She said there were also no deputy registrars at the church, so people who wanted to register were sent to Bethany Lutheran Church.

Kathy Reiland said people coming to vote at Holiday Hills Village Hall for Nunda Precinct 12 were not turned away after 7 p.m., but election judges said they weren’t made aware of the extension.

Additionally, a news alert sent by the village of Johnsburg to residents said a referendum about a proposed sales tax was not on the ballot for some voters.

At 7:45 p.m. McClellan said all polling places were informed of the court order, and she had not had any reports that polling places were closing early.

She estimated the electronic books used to check voters in were not working in less than a dozen polling places when the polls opened at 6 a.m. However, the problems were sprinkled throughout the county, she said, with problems being reported at select locations in Algonquin, Chemung, Dorr, Dunham, Grafton, McHenry and Nunda townships.

“It was a glitch that didn't let the system load,” McClellan said.

DOCUMENT: McHenry County polling locations ordered to stay open until 8:30 p.m.

She said the machines had been tested and worked fine for the 11,000 voters who checked in on them through the close of early voting Monday. She said it wasn't clear what caused the glitch.

“But it obviously failed to some extent,” McClellan said.

In her court petition, McClellan said she had heard from election judges, citizens and candidates that technical difficulties had caused voters not to be able to vote for an unknown amount of time.

Election judges were checking people in manually for more than an hour as primary voting got underway. McClellan stressed the problem was only with the electronic polling books that verify voter registration, not machines used to count votes.

Earlier in the day, Algonquin Township voter Linda Keyes said when she went to cast her ballot about 7:20 a.m. at Jacobs High School, 2601 Bunker Hill Drive, Algonquin, she encountered black screens on the poll books. She said election judges informed her and other people waiting to vote they couldn't be checked in and would not be able to vote until later.

“People were sent away and told to please, please, please come back,” Keyes said.

Voters in Lake in the Hills and Grafton Township reported receiving only a federal ballot.

Another problem reported was with federal ballots.

Kevin Sindelar said he voted at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday at Springbrook Community Church, 10115 Algonquin Road, Huntley. He said he was not able to resubmit a complete ballot after submitting one with only federal races, and the problem was fixed after he notified election judges.

“It probably affected other people before me,” Sindelar said.

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