'A very stressful situation': Why election night results were delayed in DuPage, Lake counties

  • Keara Douglas of Glendale Heights casts her ballot on Election Day at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. A technical glitch snarled the reporting of unofficial results late Tuesday.

      Keara Douglas of Glendale Heights casts her ballot on Election Day at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. A technical glitch snarled the reporting of unofficial results late Tuesday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Micheal Brooker of Wheaton casts his vote Tuesday at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton.

      Micheal Brooker of Wheaton casts his vote Tuesday at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/4/2020 5:28 PM

A technical snafu, voting machine errors and an onslaught of data contributed to election night reporting delays in DuPage and Lake counties, where unofficial results remained murky several hours after the polls closed Tuesday.

The DuPage County clerk's office had posted some early and vote-by-mail counts, but none from its 930 precincts, before a 45-minute glitch snarled the transfer of data from the tabulation system to the website, Chief Deputy County Clerk Adam Johnson said. Tallies weren't updated again until well after 10 p.m., and vote totals from all precincts weren't posted until 1 a.m.

 

In Lake County, day-of election totals were posted first, as is tradition, followed by a final wave encompassing early and mail-in votes at 1:30 a.m., Clerk Robin O'Connor said. She attributed the delay to two factors: Addressing problems with two on-site voting machines that were not properly tabulating results, and helping 600 new election judges navigate Election Day procedures.

A slew of tight races in DuPage, paired with the national attention placed on vote-counting processes, resulted in a "very stressful situation," made worse when the data export tool froze, Johnson said. Election judges continued tabulating votes while the technical problems were being addressed, he said.

Election authorities anticipated processing a high volume of ballots, Johnson said, and aside from the glitch, everything went according to plan. Additional vote-by-mail ballots were being processed Wednesday, with more expected to roll in over the next two weeks, he said, and the clerk's office communicated frequently with party leaders on both sides.

But DuPage County Republican Party Chairman Jim Zay called the delay "unacceptable," saying the state's second-largest county should be better equipped to handle the election night rush.

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"We've had too many elections that we've had these issues," he said. "It has to be fixed."

Johnson acknowledged the county's systems are slow and outdated, adding to what is already a high-pressure situation for candidates, voters and election officials.

"We're being as transparent as possible," he said. "We have a constant inflow of ballots ... and we just had a lot of data to update over the course of the evening."

• Daily Herald staff writers Doug T. Graham and Katlyn Smith contributed to this report.

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