Local Election

Illinois State Board of Elections will advise McHenry County Clerk's Office on how to prevent election errors

Dianna Wilcox, left, prepares to submit her filled ballot as Tom Ensign, both of Crystal Lake, fills out his ballot at Bethany Lutheran Church on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 in Crystal Lake.
Dianna Wilcox, left, prepares to submit her filled ballot as Tom Ensign, both of Crystal Lake, fills out his ballot at Bethany Lutheran Church on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 in Crystal Lake.

In response to a ballot error that put the results of a Marengo Fire Protection District referendum in question, the Illinois State Board of Elections has been called to advise the McHenry County Clerk’s Office on how to prevent future election problems.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said he contacted the board’s legal counsel, Ken Menzel, following the election error, which McSweeney credited as complete incompetence from the county clerk’s office. McSweeney had taken similar action following the 2016 primary, where multiple election issues stalled late-mail ballots from being tallied and races from being called for nearly 48 hours.

“It is inexcusable what happened,” McSweeney said.

The Marengo Fire Protection District and Marengo Rescue Squad District both had referendums that would cause higher property taxes for the purpose of funding benefit options for firefighters and paramedics. However, the language from the rescue squad’s referendum appeared on the ballot for both districts’ requests.

McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio said there were some last-minute changes to the ballot but that was not an excuse for the printing of incorrect information.

“We still own making sure it comes out correctly,” Tirio said on Wednesday.

Board of elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said Menzel will offer some safeguards to ensure exact and accurate language appears on the ballot. Tirio said he is considering implementing a double entry method, which is used on the county recorder’s office, to verify accurate information in future elections.

Upon investigating, McHenry County Board Chairman Franks said the error was entirely on Tirio’s office and feels the county clerk should apologize to voters and consider stepping down from his role as clerk.

“This is a big black eye for McHenry County, and it’s some of the worst mistakes I have ever seen,” Franks said.

Marengo Fire Protection District Chief Bob Bradbury said someone could contest the race, but the burden is on them to determine that the wording on the ballot affected the outcome.

Regardless of whether the results may be challenged, Bradbury thanked the Marengo community for its support.

“The wonderful thing about the community is that they support emergency services and they appreciate them very much,” Bradbury said.

Franks said he thinks the results in Marengo could be challenged. However, he hopes this doesn’t occur as he would not want to see another election be performed at a cost to the taxpayers.

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