McHenry County clerk resolves 3,400 vote discrepancy between voter turnout number, total ballots cast

Difference was due to mail-in ballots that were processed but not yet counted

McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio said the 3,400 ballot difference between voter turnout totals posted to his website and the number of ballots cast on the county’s election night results page was because of mail-in ballots that had been partially processed on Election Day but not yet counted.

After a former McHenry County clerk raised concerns over the seemingly inexplicably large difference between the two numbers, Tirio said he would work with the software vendor of the county’s pollbook system to clear up the discrepancy.

“The difference between the turnout [display] and the election night reporting is caused by marking voters as having voted as soon as we receive their ballot in the mail [or drop box],” Tirio said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “On Election Day, we had several thousand ballots that were in some state of processing, but had not been tabulated.”

On Nov. 3, 50,073 vote-by-mail ballots in the county clerk’s office were “at some point in their processing life cycle” between being received and being calculated, he said.

The first step in this process is to feed the ballots through the county’s ballot sorting machine, which takes a picture of the front of each ballot and logs the signature and identity of each voter.

This machine is connected to the county’s Election Information Management System, which feeds data to its pollbook system and logs that the person has voted, Tirio said.

It is this information from the pollbook system that is used in the voter turnout totals posted to the clerk’s office website each election season.

This election cycle, however, not all of the 50,073 mail-in ballots that had been received by the clerk’s office by Election Day were able to counted on election night, Tirio said.

The number of vote-by-mail ballots counted and added to the county’s election results page on election night was 46,455, leaving a difference of 3,618.

Before a mail-in ballot can be counted, it must be fully processed and its signature must be verified and Tirio’s team was not able to complete that process for all of the mail-in ballots while also overseeing Election Day, he said.

The remaining ballots were counted in the days after election night and their votes added to the county’s election results page during the next update, which occurred Nov. 10.

When Tirio was initially questioned on the data discrepancy, he said in an email that it was likely due to “human error, repeated erroneous check-ins, voters failing to deposit their ballots in tabulators, etc.”

In an interview Nov. 6, former McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan said that explanation did not add up, given her knowledge of the county’s pollbook system.

During a McHenry County Board meeting last Thursday, Tirio introduced another hypothesis, saying that the difference was likely because of new voter registrations being accidentally counted twice in the system.

After receiving a full data report from the software vendor, however, Tirio said he realized that this hypothesis was merely a “mathematical coincidence.”

“It was after looking at the data that it had occurred to us that marking the received [vote-by-mail] ballot voters as having voted caused the issue,” Tirio said in an email Thursday.

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