After election, McHenry County vote counting drags on

 
 
Updated 3/17/2016 5:47 AM
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  • McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan says counting of votes will resume Thursday.

    McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan says counting of votes will resume Thursday.

  • McHenry County Board member Nick Provenzano said, "We have lots of questions, no answers and no ballot results."

    McHenry County Board member Nick Provenzano said, "We have lots of questions, no answers and no ballot results."

  • Sandra Salgado, chairwoman of the McHenry County Republican Party, questioned "the integrity of the process."

    Sandra Salgado, chairwoman of the McHenry County Republican Party, questioned "the integrity of the process."

The moment McHenry County polls opened on Election Day, the system was in trouble.

Electronic poll books -- which allow election officials to review voter data -- weren't working in 12 polling places. That led to a judge's order to extended voting hours 90 minutes countywide, though some election judges reported being unaware of that decision.

Election results didn't start rolling in until hours after polls closed, and vote tallying continued well past midnight.

On Wednesday, with some races too close to call, officials were still tabulating votes -- a situation some said was compounded by the absence of Clerk Mary McClellan, who was away from the office on a personal matter.

For Sandra Salgado, chairwoman of the McHenry County Republican Party, the confusion called into question "the integrity of the process."

"It seems like there wasn't good communication between the clerk's office and election judges and candidates," she said.

On Wednesday, the clerk's election website was less than a fount of accurate information.

About 10 a.m., the site showed 144 of 212 precincts reporting unofficial results. Soon after, McClellan removed the number of precincts reporting because the feature was inaccurate, and was resulting in further confusion among candidates and voters.

"We have lots of questions, no answers and no ballot results," said Nick Provenzano, county board member and successful candidate in District 3. "The county board is not real happy right now."

Results from all precincts were reported on the website by Wednesday afternoon, McClellan said. But remaining uncounted late in the day were mail-in ballots and provisional ballots that were cast after 7 p.m. Plus, any others brought into question throughout the day.

As of 4 p.m., McClellan said she was counting the more than 600 mail-in ballots of 3,000 sent out. Because the court ordered a polling extension, she also has to wait an unknown amount of time for court-ordered approval to count the provisional ballots.

McClellan said late Wednesday counting will not be completed and will resume Thursday morning.

Then, she said, the election website will be updated to reveal final results.

Ken Menzel, general counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said the county is not required to post unofficial results. The clerk's office is required to finish counting all votes, including absentee ballots, within 14 days of the election; official results must be posted 21 days after the election.

But Provenzano said the delay is frustrating for all candidates, especially those with multicounty or tight races.

After showing up at the county clerk's office Wednesday morning to seek information, Provenzano said he was concerned with the seemingly disorganized system within the clerk's office that has caused such a delay in tabulation.

State's Attorney Lou Bianchi said his office does not have any ethical concerns about the election and is not investigating.

Despite the difficulties, Salgado took them in stride.

"It was difficult getting information, but I know how election nights go," she said. "It's always very crazy. Everyone wants immediate responses. Today, there was a little more clarification provided, so I think there's a better feeling about the whole situation."

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