Illinois elections board IDs McHenry County 2016 primary problems

The issues that plagued the March 15 primary in McHenry County might have led to some eligible voters not casting their ballots, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections' report.

The report was requested by state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, who was not alone in demanding answers after an Election Day many felt was full of problems. McSweeney, who provided the memo to the Northwest Herald on Thursday after receiving it from the state board of elections, said the report was disconcerting.

"It was an absolute fiasco," McSweeney said after receiving the report. "I'm concerned, and I think there should be changes so that never happens again. ... That's the most basic American right – to vote."

One of the main problems highlighted was related to the electronic poll books, the memo said. The review found one or more of the memory sticks used to install McHenry County's voter database had a defective file. Those defects were not uncovered before the poll books were sent to the polling places, causing delays throughout the day.

McHenry County primary election: 'Worst-managed' in decades or isolated problems?

Communication also hindered the process, the report states, with callers getting automatic recordings when trying to reach election judges or the general public hotline. The phone problems in McHenry County were aggravated by the fact that poll book troubles required the attention of those who would otherwise be available to aid callers, the state election officials found.

While the accuracy of the vote totals was apparently not called into question, state officials did state the problems might have resulted in some voters not casting their ballots.

As for the future of elections in McHenry County, County Clerk Mary McClellan said she's been working toward solutions.

Efforts are underway to raise the limitation of calls coming into the county administrative buildings – the limit currently is 75 calls at once – to more than 150, McClellan said, who added that she was unaware of the limitation until after the election.

"We're also going to set up call centers," she said, explaining that one would be dedicated to election judges and the other for the general public.

Both, she added, would be staffed with 20 people.

A new system also has been implemented to ensure that her own staff test each poll book before they're sent to polling places, as opposed to relying on the vendor, as was done this year, McClellan said.

"The two main issues, I think, we've identified, and to both of those we have a solution so that this will never happen again," she said.

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