Staff from the Illinois State Board of Elections will most likely report by May on the problems that plagued the March 15 primary in McHenry County.
A staff member last week visited McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan’s office to gather information, and likely will visit again in early April after the election results are canvassed, board spokesman Jim Tenuto said. The election board in the wake of the staff member’s findings could then make recommendations to fix whatever the investigation concludes is lacking.
“We’d offer any suggestions to avoid future problems, or to assist in any way we can,” Tenuto said.
The state board announced it would investigate problems at the urging of state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, who along with candidates, local Republican and Democratic officials and voters, have wanted answers after an election they allege was full of problems.
Problems started shortly after polls opened at 6 a.m. with some precincts having to turn away voters because the electronic poll books used to verify voter registration malfunctioned.
McClellan asked for and received an emergency court order to keep the polls open another 90 minutes.
However, many precincts complained that not only were they not informed of this, but also that repeated attempts to contact McClellan’s office failed – phone calls to the clerk’s office before and after business hours went to a recorded message, according to numerous accounts.
While McClellan said that the notice went out to all polling places via chat software on the computers, a number of accounts dispute this as well. At least two precincts closed at 7 p.m. instead of 8:30 p.m.
Precinct workers and judges complained of malfunctioning equipment, and voters complained that they were turned away, or had incomplete ballots.
McClellan has defended the integrity of the results and said that steps are being taken to improve the process.
Besides the poll book problem, McClellan attributed complications that she has described as minor to very high voter turnout and new laws, such as one that allows people to register to vote at the polling place on Election Day.
By the time McHenry County’s neighboring counties had reported their results in the late hours of March 15, McClellan’s office had reported less than half of vote totals. It was not until the evening of March 17, almost two full days after polls closed, that a number of close races for state and local offices were decided.
Tuesday is the last day for county clerks to tabulate vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by the March 15 primary date.
After that, clerks have until April 5 to canvass the election results and transmit them to the state board.
The March primary was the first partisan election handled under McClellan. Voters elected her in 2014 to succeed longtime clerk Kathie Schultz, who retired after 24 years in office.