DuPage election officials working to prevent errors in write-in races

 
 
Updated 5/12/2016 10:15 AM
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In response to mistakes made during the March primary, DuPage County election officials are considering a plan to audit future write-in races when "an obvious discrepancy" is found.

Last month, three write-in candidates were declared winners of the March 15 primary after court-ordered recounts found errors in the vote totals compiled by the DuPage Election Commission.

But in all those cases, the candidates involved needed to hire attorneys, go to court and ask judges to intervene to make the recounts happen.

"That's a bar that's just a bit too high," said John Boske, who serves on the board of election commissioners that oversees the agency. "We've got to figure out how to fix this."

Commission attorney Pat Bond said the agency doesn't have the legal authority to do a recount of write-in ballots without a court order. But audits are allowed under state law, he said.

So officials are exploring the possibility of having bipartisan audit teams examine write-in races within 14 days of an election.

Robert Saar, executive director of the commission, said the proposed audits would only happen when there is "an obvious discrepancy."

In one write-in race this year, Democratic county recorder candidate Moon Khan initially was given credit for just 699 write-in votes, even though more than 4,100 Democrats cast ballots in the uncontested primary for the recorder's position. A court-ordered recount later determined Khan received more than the 844 write-in votes he needed to earn his party's nomination.

It's similar to what happened in the GOP primary, where three Republican precinct committeeman candidates in Wayne Township picked up dozens of additional write-in votes during a court-ordered recount. Two of those candidates ended up getting elected after first being told they didn't have enough votes.

Saar said it appears some election judges improperly deemed write-in votes invalid or didn't count them at all.

"There's clearly an issue with some of our election judges not counting the write-in votes," said Saar, adding that audits would make it possible for those mistakes to be caught and corrected.

To do the proposed audits, the commission must first adopt a policy that includes strict safeguards ensuring the audits comply with the law.

"Under the audit that's being suggested, we would have to establish very stringent criteria so as to not run afoul of the election code," Bond said.

Commission staff members are planning to work with the agency's lawyers to draft the proposed policy change.

Meanwhile, one member of the election panel says he would like election judges to count write-in votes properly in the first place.

"The election judges who are counting these need to pay closer attention," Commissioner James S. Lowe said. "There needs to be higher scrutiny on that particular process."

Commission officials have said election judges will get additional training on how to count write-in votes.

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