'Statistical dead heat': With 75-vote difference, DuPage auditor race could go to recount

Just 75 votes out of nearly half a million ballots cast separate the DuPage County auditor candidates, leaving the photo-finish race up in the air two weeks after Election Day.

The down-ballot contest remains one of the closest in the suburbs now that election authorities have finished their counts.

Unofficial results give Democratic challenger William "Bill" White the razor-thin lead over three-term Republican incumbent Bob Grogan.

A narrow victory for White would extend historic gains for Democrats in DuPage. But the county's top financial watchdog said Wednesday he's exploring his options for a recount.

"Anything with big numbers, whether it's processing checks here at the county or counting votes, there is no system that's perfect," Grogan said. "There's always going to be an error rate, and so we're just going to go and check out and see if there were errors that constitute more than one one-hundredth of a percent, which is what I lost by."

Grogan could request a so-called discovery recount of ballots in up to 25% of the precincts countywide. The partial recount is conducted to help candidates determine if there are enough discrepancies to seek a court order for a complete recount.

White, an attorney from Downers Grove, said he would fully respect Grogan's decision if his opponent ultimately chooses to pursue a recount.

"We need transparency, and he has every right to do so, especially when it's so close," White said. "That said, my understanding is that at least in DuPage County, discovery recounts don't often, fairly rarely, change anything, so I have absolutely no quarrel with his exercising all of his rights."

On election night, Grogan held the advantage. But White gained ground as the county clerk's office continued tabulating mail-in ballots. Both candidates said they expected a tight finish. White ended up with 233,121 votes to Grogan's 233,046.

"I read numbers and understand trends, and it was by the end of election night ... a statistical dead heat," Grogan said.

Grogan, a licensed CPA and the president of the Illinois Association of County Auditors, said he's heard from election lawyers and elected officials from around the state offering to help with a recount process.

"I'm both gratified for the people that did support me, and I am gratified for having at least the 12 years to serve," he said. "And if certain stars align in other ways, if I get to continue to serve, that will be another blessing on top of that."

In other countywide races, Democratic challenger Candice Adams ousted four-term GOP incumbent Chris Kachiroubas. Democrat Kathleen Carrier won the recorder race.

White credited the inroads to the local party's on-the-ground organization and changing demographics in DuPage.

"The Democratic Party of DuPage County, they worked incredibly hard for all of the candidates," White said. "So if there's any one factor I'm most grateful for is the hard work and discipline coming from the Democrats to get out of the vote for all of us."

For the first time since 1934, Democrats will take control of the county board, a show of strength that spilled over to forest preserve races.

"The county is much more at least purple, if not partially blue," White said. "The Democratic wave is real. And yet, we're a purple county because a lot of the races, in very few of the county-level races, did any candidate get more than 51% of the vote."

During the campaign, Grogan touted his office's record of innovation. Grogan was the first Illinois auditor to launch an online county checkbook, allowing the public to search and view expenditures.

"I had a lot of crossover votes," he said. "I got substantially more votes than my party's top of the ticket, so, I mean I think that appeal was real."

Grogan would have until Nov. 30 to request a discovery recount. Newly elected countywide officials are scheduled to take their seats Dec. 1.

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