Absentee, provisional ballots still to be counted

February 4, 2010 4:30:21 AM PST
Absentee and provisional ballots could decide both the Republican and Democratic races for governor, which were still too close to call more than 24 hours after the polls closed.Election officials say it will take two weeks before all the votes are counted. But 100 percent of precincts have now reported results.

In the Republican race for governor Bill Brady led Kirk Dillard by only 406 votes as of Wednesday night at 10 p.m. Among the Democrats, Gov. Pat Quinn was leading his challenger Comptroller Dan Hynes by 8,090 votes.

Hynes has scheduled a news conference Thursday where campaign aides say he will make an important announcement.

With all 11,215 Illinois precincts counted Wednesday night, two things have happened in the governor's race. Democrat Pat Quinn's lead has widened significantly. Republican Bill Brady's lead had narrowed considerably. And so the winners in each contest may be determined in a way that elections normally are not: by the relatively few ballots that are still outstanding.

Not everyone who wanted to vote Tuesday was able to. Thousands of registered voters across the state had requested absentee ballots. Some mailed the ballots in time for them to be counted Tuesday night with the rest of the votes. But many more will arrive over the next few days. How many is anyone's guess.

"Those are all live important votes that may, hopefully not, but may determine who wins one of these races," said David Orr, Cook County Clerk.

In Cook County, where the last of the precincts were counted Wednesday afternoon, about 2,300 absentee ballots are still outstanding. In Chicago more than 6,000 are still out.

"Any absentee ballots that arrive in the mail, if they are postmarked and/or certified by the voter, February 1 or earlier, those by state law have to be accepted," said Jim Allen, Chicago Board of Elections.

Elsewhere, the numbers of absentee ballots that haven't been returned are far smaller. For example, in Kane County about 700 may be out. In Champaign County, 476 haven't been received. In Peoria County, only 157 haven't been received.

In less populated all-rural counties there may only be only a few outstanding absentee ballots.

There are even fewer provisional ballots yet to be counted, given to voters on Election Day whose qualification to vote has been challenged.

"I want to advise any voters out there who used or cast a provisional ballet for whatever reason in their precinct, you have by 5:00 tomorrow by state law to provide us with any kind of documentation that would verify that you were a registered voter in that precinct and that your ballot should be counted," said Allen.

Twenty-seven hundred provisional ballots were voted in Chicago and 800 in Cook County; possibly only a few dozen elsewhere in the state. But once provisional ballots are investigated, normally about 25 percent of them are verified and counted.

There are 102 counties in Illinois. There might be 10,000 absentee and provisional votes that will actually end up counted. With some Democrat and some Republican ballots, it becomes clear that even if Dan Hynes won every single absentee and provisional Democratic vote, it wouldn't be enough to make up an 8,000 vote gap.

The GOP side is another story.