McHenry Co. to hand count random race in hopes of boosting confidence in elections

McHenry County's elections this year will include new processes - including counting by hand a randomly selected race - which officials hope will improve both election integrity and voters' confidence in the system.

County Clerk Joe Tirio, who has come under fire for his office's handling of recent elections, said he thinks McHenry County is the first to implement such changes.

The changes are meant to address concerns raised by voters about the accuracy of the equipment used in the elections, which they hope to "quell" with the new process.

The hand count will be in addition to the state-mandated audit, Tirio said in a news release.

The required audit calls for 5% of both precinct ballots and machines used during the election to be looked at further and checked for discrepancies, according to the release. The 5% of ballots selected for the audit are random.

After the audit, the counting by hand of a randomly selected race will take place with officials from each major political party taking part. The goal is to confirm that the machines used to count the ballots match the outcome from counting by hand.

Training for election judges also is planned, Tirio said. One training session will focus on signature verification.

Questions about signature checking have cropped up over the years, he said, but the training will give "greater depth" to the election's security.

"The 2022 elections will be challenging in several ways, but I believe that this change, as well as the other changes we have made up to this point, put us in a better position than ever before and demonstrate our commitment to continuous improvement," Tirio said in the release.

Since Tirio was elected to his post in 2018, his office has seen some challenges during elections. Last year, during local elections in April, his office ran into issues centered on the design of the ballots, which caused the wrong preliminary results to be posted online election night.

This led to a full recount of the ballots, as well as apologies from Tirio.

Tirio also was criticized after the April 2019 election for an error in the language of a referendum regarding the Marengo Fire Protection District.

Tirio also is expected to be on the ballot this year for reelection, although he had not filed nominating petitions as of Friday. Two Democrats - former Hebron village Trustee Andrew "Drew" J. Georgi Jr. and McHenry Township Assessor Mary Mahady - will compete in the June primary to see who will face the Republican incumbent in the fall.

In running both the election and a campaign, Tirio said he expects to be busy.

"I just won't sleep until Nov. 15 or so," he said.

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