'Glitch' causes McHenry County vote undercount; fix hands board seat to Democrat

 
 
Updated 11/8/2018 7:06 PM
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  • Carlos Acosta

    Carlos Acosta

  • Mary McClellan

    Mary McClellan

McHenry County's vote totals were underreported by nearly 20 percent because of a software "glitch," the county's chief election officer, Clerk Mary McClellan, acknowledged Thursday.

Updated unofficial results show Democrat Carlos Acosta not only won a District 5 county board seat but had the highest vote total among the four candidates for the district's two seats. If the results stand, Acosta will replace Republican incumbent Michael Rein.

"I was speechless. Dumbfounded. It's just amazing. I didn't expect to win this way, so it's still kind of sinking in," said Acosta, of Woodstock. "Obviously, I'm ecstatic that we won. I appreciate that (McClellan) did her due diligence in rectifying the problem."

Additionally, in the 14th Congressional District race, Democrat Lauren Underwood wound up carrying McHenry County after the new results were posted. Though Underwood was announced as the winner Tuesday, it had been reported that she had fewer votes than Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren in McHenry County.

The undercount came to light Thursday. It showed that roughly 20 percent of the ballots cast Tuesday did not select a candidate in the statewide races. Initially, McClellan claimed it was common for voters to leave some races blank. However, vote totals in neighboring counties showed only about 1 percent to 2 percent of voters skipping the statewide races.

Illinois state Rep. David McSweeney said he was suspicious of the vote count after seeing how many ballots were cast without picking statewide candidates.

"I saw her excuse, so I decided to go straight to the state board of elections," said McSweeney, a Republican.

Illinois Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said the agency contacted McClellan's office and was satisfied with the explanation given for the error. He said because the problem was solved before the results were certified, there won't be any further investigation by the state board.

McSweeney said the election board should continue its investigation, but he was pleased the error was fixed.

"I'm glad for two reasons," McSweeney said. "One, that the vote is finally right, and two, that the person responsible for this disgusting incompetence is leaving office."

McClellan, who did not seek reelection, has had trouble with election results in the past. In 2016, McHenry kept polls open an extra 90 minutes because of another technology glitch that prevented election judges from accessing voter information.

As for Tuesday's undercount, McClellan said a filter on the county's election reporting system had been blocking some of the early votes from being displayed correctly. She said "there was no error" because the unofficial results are "a courtesy to candidates."

"It was more of a glitch than anything," she said. "We were able to rectify it. "

She added: "It's unfortunate that Mr. McSweeney is willing to go there like that. That's a shame."

In the meantime, McClellan stated there are still about 2,000 ballots outstanding "with two weeks until the deadline for her office to accept vote-by-mail ballots." Those ballots will be accepted only if they are postmarked Nov. 6 or earlier.

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