Illinois authorities investigating too-big ballots

March 21, 2012 4:16:21 PM PDT
Some counties in Illinois were still adding up primary votes Wednesday because the ballots they used were too big to fit into scanning machines.

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In this Intelligence Report: How authorities plan to prevent that from happening in the November election.

There were no hanging chads, pregnant chads or even dimpled chads this time, but when it comes to Illinois elections, it always seems to be something getting in the way of a having a flawless Illinois election. Wednesday, authorities in a quarter of all the counties in the state are investigating how some of their paper ballot forms ended up a little too big to fit into the machines that scan the votes.

"We are indeed in contact with all of the election authorities that were impacted," said Illinois State Board of Elections' Ken Menzel. "We are getting ready to do a good review of exactly what the problem was, what factor or factors combined led us to what we saw yesterday, and we are going to look into ways to avoid both at the production end with the ballots and helping the election authorities put into place procedures that would be more likely to catch out of tolerance ballots."

State election officials say they will visit the three contractors responsible for printing and providing the ballot forms, forms that ended up cut too big on one edge, and bedeviled 26 counties across the state of Illinois. Many didn't realize they had ill-fitting ballots until after the polls opened.

"It was disappointing after all the testing that was done. This printer has printed over 10 million ballots for DuPage and we've never had a problem, then this crops up," said Robert Saar, executive director of the DuPage County Election Commission.

"We trimmed them before the voters voted, we had them all stacked up," said Aurora election judge Raphael Wilson.

Some election judges took matters -- and scissors -- into their own hands, while others waited for the printer to make emergency deliveries of proper-sized ballots.

"But each of the votes that were cast by the voters yesterday will indeed be counted. We are not going to lose any of the votes," said Menzel.

Wednesday afternoon, there were 18 precincts in Chicago that were processed late, but not because the ballots were cut wrong. In those Chicago polling places the election equipment failed or there were problems Tuesday night transmitting the results downtown.

With more than 11,000 voting precincts in Illinois, there will always be Election Day problems of some sort. The trick is to minimize them.

Tuesday, when the oversized ballots were found, there was no standard fix in the instruction book because it hadn't happened before. Some counties allowed judges to trim the ballots by hand, others didn't.