Lake County's new $1.65 million vote-counting system to debut Tuesday night

When voting ends Tuesday night, the $1.65 million in election equipment Lake County leaders invested in last December will make its grand debut.

The machines are designed to speed up the vote-counting process, especially of the increasingly popular vote-by-mail ballots, to more quickly determine the outcomes.

There will be no shortage of vote-by-mail ballots to count. The Lake County clerk's office announced Friday it has sent out 52,141 vote-by-mail ballots - about 11% of the county's 463,222 registered voters.

That's more mail-in ballots than the office processed in the 2018 midterm election - around 33,000 - but isn't nearly as many as in the 2020 presidential election, when 140,536 vote-by-mail ballots were counted.

The process of opening that many ballots without the aid of special equipment meant the victors went undetermined for days and even weeks after counting began.

The clerk's office released a video on the county's YouTube channel Thursday showing off the new system, which is designed to automate many time-consuming tasks, such as opening envelopes and sorting ballots.

Clerk Robin O'Connor said Friday she expects the count to go more quickly thanks to the new equipment and stressed the office will use the same thorough process to ensure the vote count is accurate, such as having election judges from both parties present throughout.

O'Connor also noted the results will not be official until after the canvassing process at least two weeks after Election Day.

The $1.65 million in equipment was paid for in December 2021 from the county's portion of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Joe Biden.

The new system was not ready for use during the June primary.

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