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updated: 3/20/2012 5:15 PM

Ballot problems could mean slow results

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  • The weather certainly won't be an issue for voters today as they head to polling places like the Gail Borden Library in Elgin.

      The weather certainly won't be an issue for voters today as they head to polling places like the Gail Borden Library in Elgin.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer


A power outage in Wheeling, oversized ballots in Aurora and DuPage COunty and a computer that crashed overnight in Kane County are a few problems have cropped up on an otherwise serene primary election day.

It's still too early to tell if voter turnout will be lower today than was even anticipated earlier this week.

The day began with ballot problems in nearly a quarter of Illinois counties, including DuPage. Some ballots were too large to fit into scanning machines in 24 counties and the city of Aurora.

Jane Gasperin of the Illinois State Board of Elections said some polling places experienced problems loading ballots into the scanners, because they were printed marginally too large or askew.

In DuPage, Gasperin said about 300 total ballots were affected. Officials from the DuPage County Election Commission said those ballots came from 23 of DuPage County's 360 voting locations.

New ballots were immediately ordered and distributed to the affected DuPage locations by about 1 p.m. Tuesday, said officials.

"Past that time, new ballots were in place and there should not be any problem going forward," said Dan Curry, DuPage County Election Commission spokesman.

In DuPage, affected ballots will be remade by hand into new ballots, which will then be properly loaded into the scanner, Curry said. He added election judges from both parties will supervise the process and it should not cause much of a delay in tallying results.

"This is a statutory procedure that has been in place in Illinois for a long time," Curry said.

In addition, all votes will be counted statewide, said Gasperin. But some affected counties may tally results slower than usual, since each is dealing with the problem differently, she added.

Counties reporting ballot size problems are: Winnebago, Vermilion, Iroquois, Douglas, Knox, Grundy, McLean, Warren, Lee, Bond, Bureau, Christian, Clark, Coles, DeWitt, DuPage, Edgar, Macon, Macoupin, Moultrie, Putnam, Rock Island, Shelby and Tazewell.

Lynn Fechner, executive director of the commission, said Aurora was one of several jurisdictions that received oversized ballot cards. When the problem was discovered, election judges were told to trim the side of the cards to allow them to fit in the machine.

She said the flaw did not affect touch screen voting machines.

"It would be the same type of system if we lost electricity," she said. "It's something unplanned, but new procedures were put in place to correct the problem."

In Cook County, Courtney Greve, a spokeswoman for the Cook County Clerk's Office, said a 30-minute power outage affected four precincts in Wheeling. She said voters used paper ballots in those affected areas to cast their votes.

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said one of their computer servers went down overnight, and the county's computer department had to work overtime to get it up and running by 6 a.m.

"It was a little scary late last night when it went down," he said. "But, they spent all night working and got it going. Everything is working fine now."

Cook County Clerk David Orr said nobody is expecting the kind of primary turnout like Illinois had in 2008, when Barack Obama was running. Even so, turnout may be lower than even last week's modest predictions.

"We don't know at this point if it'll end up being lower than expected, but I can say I'd love to see more people get out and vote," Orr said.

In Lake County, Clerk Willard Helander said all polling places opened on time, and no complaints have been fielded by the clerks office so far.

However, she said voters are not lining up around the block to get in to vote, adding that average numbers of voters have been witnessed entering and exiting polling places.

"Early voting is down over numbers from four years ago, so it's hard to determine if that means voter turnout will be down or not," she said. "But, if those results gauge how election day will turn out for this primary, it will play out that we are down a few percentage points over four years ago."

Cunningham said Kane County received about 7,000 early votes, and that about 8,000 people voted early Tuesday morning.

"It's too early to tell how voter turnout will be," he said. "I think we will get more voters the closer it gets to the polls closing this evening."

Champaign County clerk Gordy Hulten said turnout in his central Illinois county was "slow and steady," and he predicted that about 35,000 ballots would be cast there, which would put its voter turnout at about 28 percent.

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