Ill. election officials prepare for Tuesday

October 31, 2008 3:30:58 PM PDT
In a huge turnout for early voters in Illinois, election officials report the totals are nearing 665,000. Now it is time to turn their attention to Tuesday's election. As a consequence of early voting, city and county election officials are being entrusted to hold and secure until after the polls close next Tuesday about 15 percent of all the votes that could possibly be cast in the November 4 election. In Chicago and Cook County, it's the first time ever that so large a percentage of the vote will be held uncounted for so long a period of time.

The over 200,000 early votes in suburban Cook County were cast on electronic touch machines, and from each of the 550 machines used during the past three weeks in the suburbs, officials removed a USB stick -- a "results cartridge" -- that stores the votes made on that machine.

"Then election night when we start tabulating the results, these will be basically plugged into the machines so the votes will start coming out," said David Orr, Cook County clerk.

Orr says the county's early voting cartridges are being stored under lock and key in a guarded warehouse on the city's West Side. The USB sticks won't be touched again, ABC7 is told, until they are taken downtown Election Day to be counted after the polls close.

"They'll be transported by our staff, accompanied by Cook County Sheriff's Deputies," said Jan Kralovec, director of elections.

But, at the city board of elections, which doesn't have a warehouse, the results cartridges and supporting paperwork documenting over 30,000 early votes cast Thursday are stored in an eighth floor conference room where reporters were invited for a news conference.

"We had security in this room all night. That's all I can tell you. They had security all night in this room," said Langdon Neal, Chicago Election Board chairman.

Neal says reporters should compare Chicago's 2008 early vote to other cities in the country.

"You will see we've had a relatively flawless early vote," Neal said.

Neal and Orr also advised voters to be patient on Election Day, when if turnout does reach the projected 80 percent level, there could be long waits at many polling places.

"Some folks fought and died for some of us to have that right, so it's imperative that I vote. Gotta do it," said Mike Carter, Election Day voter.

Neither election board expects a final vote tally until late. The long lines could keep the polling places active after they officially close.

"If you are in line at 7 o'clock, no matter how long that line may be, you will be able to vote," said Neal.

Election officials also advised voters to bring one piece of identification with them on Tuesday. Those first-time voters should be advised to bring two pieces of identification with them, at least one with a photo.


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