DuPage judge says auditor race election recount bill too high, cuts by more than half
Former DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan will not have to pay $289,000 up front for a recount of the 2020 race he lost.
DuPage County Judge Craig Belford on Monday denied some of the expenses County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek said Grogan should pay, knocking the amount down to $112,614. And, Belford decided Grogan should only have to post half of that amount -- $56,307 -- in advance.
Belford said that while the court's "paramount obligation" is to ensure there is a true and accurate vote count, "the posting of a security should never stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment of this task."
In the county auditor's race, Grogan, a Republican from Downers Grove, lost to Democrat William White, also of Downers Grove. Grogan had 233,046 votes to White's 233,121 votes.
State law allows a judge to order a candidate who requests a recount to provide a bond or cash deposit to cover some or all of the costs. If the candidate wins the recount, the money is returned.
Belford denied the clerk's request to have Grogan pay the $43,309 costs of the election-division workers who would be involved in the recount, saying the workers would be working anyway.
He also denied the $54,395 cost of renting and operating a high-speed ballot scanner. The clerk asked for $144,000 to pay 60 election judges, at $20 per hour, but Belford allowed only $79,200, at the minimum wage of $11 per hour.
Belford did rule that if the clerk has to pay more to attract 60 judges -- 30 Republicans and 30 Democrats -- he would consider having Grogan pay more. The $20-per-hour rate paid in 2020 was a special COVID-19 pandemic pay rate.
A full recount of a countywide race would be a first in DuPage County that anyone can recall. There was a full recount in a Lake County sheriff's race in 2018, but the losing candidate called it off after several days.
In a partial recount done in December, where 25% of the precincts were recounted, Grogan discovered that on Election Day, election judges at a Downers Grove polling place did not initial 436 ballots. Grogan argues that made them invalid, and if thrown out, he would have won by seven votes. Belford agreed in a ruling in May, and said Grogan presented enough evidence to merit a full recount.
Deputy clerk Scott McKay estimated the recount might take 15 days. The scanner would provide digital images of disputed ballots for presentation as evidence in court, rather than submitting the actual ballots to Belford. But McKay had said, during a deposition, that the scanner was not required, and that he "would be happy to take that off (the cost estimate) if it would be helpful."
On Tuesday, the DuPage County Board will consider a resolution, proposed by its seven Republican board members, to have the county pay for the recount.