9 months after voting ended, recount begins in 2018 Lake County sheriff's race

  • A recount of the Lake County sheriff's race began Thursday in Waukegan, nine months after votes were cast.

      A recount of the Lake County sheriff's race began Thursday in Waukegan, nine months after votes were cast. Doug T. Graham | Staff Photographer

  • Former sheriff Mark Curran, left, is hoping a recount under way Thursday will change the outcome of the 2018 election, which Democrat John Idleburg won by 137 votes.

    Former sheriff Mark Curran, left, is hoping a recount under way Thursday will change the outcome of the 2018 election, which Democrat John Idleburg won by 137 votes.

  • Lake County Clerk's Office employees and representatives from the Republican and Democratic parties observe a high-tech vote counting machine Thursday during a recount of the 2018 Lake County sheriff's race.

      Lake County Clerk's Office employees and representatives from the Republican and Democratic parties observe a high-tech vote counting machine Thursday during a recount of the 2018 Lake County sheriff's race. Doug T. Graham | Staff Photographer

  • A recount of the Lake County sheriff's race began Thursday in Waukegan, nine months after votes were cast. Republican incumbent Mark Curran was defeated by Democratic challenger John Idleburg by a 137-vote margin after the initial count.

      A recount of the Lake County sheriff's race began Thursday in Waukegan, nine months after votes were cast. Republican incumbent Mark Curran was defeated by Democratic challenger John Idleburg by a 137-vote margin after the initial count. Doug T. Graham | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/1/2019 5:22 PM

Nine months after ballots were cast, a recount is under way in the race for Lake County sheriff.

County clerk officials, under the watchful eyes of Democratic and Republican judges, will spend four days going through ballots by hand in the 2018 race between the incumbent Republican Mark Curran and Democrat John Idleburg, who was declared the winner in November by a 137-vote margin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lake County Clerk Robin O'Conner said it is the first large-scale recount in Illinois since a municipal race in Calumet County in 2003 and the first in Lake County.

"We are being careful to hold a dignified respectful process," O'Conner said Thursday morning. "Our office does everything we can to ensure that the votes are counted and guarded."

The process leading to the recount began in December, when Curran, a Libertyville Republican who served three terms as sheriff, filed a discovery recount to review the votes cast in the Nov. 6 election. Curran took the next step in late December by filing an election contest petition.

Meanwhile, Idleburg took his oath of office Dec. 1 and has been serving as sheriff since.

Mark Shaw, an attorney for Curran, said a full recount of all 415 precincts in Lake County would have cost his client just shy of $100,000. Instead, the legal team requested a recount of 66 precincts, which will cost about $15,000.

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"It's an expensive process," Shaw said.

The clerk's office will count as many votes as it can on Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday. On Aug. 9, both sides will appear before Lake County Judge Jorge Ortiz to discuss the results and next steps.

The clerk's recount team includes Burt Odelson, one of the top recount attorneys in the country and a member of then-Gov. George W. Bush's team during the 2000 presidential election. Odelson said one of the biggest differences between then and now is the use of high-tech tabulation machines.

"The machine is essentially flawless," Odelson said of the counter that can analyze 300 ballots per minute. "I didn't think I'd ever see another recount because of electric voting."

Ballots are first counted by the machine before being examined by clerk's office staff and election judges. If either side has an issue with the ballot, it is analyzed by the machine again and segregated from the other uncontested ballots, Odelson said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We just read what the machine says," Odelson said. "I shouldn't jinx myself, but it's going remarkably well."

Idleburg said Thursday he hasn't allowed what he called an "attempt to change the outcome of the election" be a distraction.

"Albeit a close election, the voters of Lake County elected me to serve as their sheriff," he said. "This hasn't been and won't be a distraction, My focus is on serving the Lake County community."

Curran said in December he was doing his "due diligence" in filing for the recount. On Tuesday he posted on his Facebook page about the recount and said "we need prayers."

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