Cook County state's attorney Democratic primary election race separated by just over 2K votes

More than 10K ballots mistakenly left out of unofficial vote count, Chicago Board of Elections says

Monday, March 25, 2024
Cook County state's attorney primary race only separated by 2K votes
Cook County state's attorney election results show a close race between Democratic primary candidates Clayton Harris III and Eileen O'Neill Burke.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The gap between the two Democratic contenders vying to be the next Cook County state's attorney got smaller as election judges continued to count votes Sunday, nearly a week after the Illinois primary.

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The Chicago Board of Elections has admitted to a mistake as the city awaits the outcome of the Democratic primary race for Cook County state's attorney.

The board said it is working to add more than 10,000 votes to its total count after its director of public information said he mistakenly left out some vote-by-mail ballots.

Meanwhile, Eileen O'Neill Burke is leading Clayton Harris III by just over 2,000 votes.

O'Neill Burke has 259,445 votes, and Harris has 257,430 votes.

Chicago Board of Elections Public Information Officer Max Bever released a statement Saturday night, saying vote-by-mail ballots delivered on Monday, March 18 were left out of the count.

"I am absolutely mortified for the mistake that I made in my reporting," Bever said Sunday. "This is not an issue of recently found ballots or missing ballots. This was an issue that I was getting out about how many vote-by-mail ballots we have received on Election Day. What I had not done was realize additional vote-by-mail ballots were received on Monday the 18th."

The board is now working to add more than 10,000 mail-in votes to its total count.

Bever said additional counting would continue on Sunday with poll watchers from both campaigns in attendance.

"There will be additional results coming in, both large and small, through the next week," Bever said. "We continue to ask for voters' patience as the process plays out, and by law all the votes are counted."

In a statement to ABC7, the O'Neill Burke campaign said, "we have a vigilant team of volunteers, lawyers, and retired judges who are watching the vote count process at the Board of Elections very closely."

Harris' campaign said in a statement, "as the votes are processed and the margin in this race continues to shrink, we are watching closely and evaluating our options. We will determine our next steps when appropriate."

Political experts say the counting error could have voters questioning the race's legitimacy.

"I think that people are going to be concerned about whether or not the results are valid," ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington said. "That always raises questions about our democracy, and about whether or not our voting process is reliable."

Erik Nisbet is a Professor of Communications at Northwestern University.

"It throws questions into the integrity of our elections in general," Nisbet said. "Basically, since 2020, since the advent of what's been called the 'Big Lie,' a large percentage of Americans have been skeptical of elections."

Bever's full Saturday statement:

"I traded speed for accuracy in reporting out numbers this week as quickly as I could. I truly regret this error on my part and for the confusion that it has caused the voters of Chicago. I will share updated numbers only when they are accurate and verified."

"I made an error in reporting the number of Vote By Mail ballots received back on Monday, March 18 before Election Day that should have been included in the 'received by Election Day' numbers.

Previously, I reported that 66,399 Vote By Mail ballots were received back and scanned for signature verification by the end of Monday, March 18. I initially reported that 7,009 VBM ballots received back via USPS on Election Day, 3/19/24. This number was incorrect - I only reported on the Vote By Mail ballots received back on Election Day only.

Approximately 9,143 Vote By Mail additional ballots received back on Monday should have been included in this 'received by Election Day' number that would be processed and counted after Election Day, March 19.

These Vote By Mail ballots received back Monday, March 18, through Tuesday, March 19, were secured in a receiving cage at 69 W. Washington until they could be run through the Agilis scanning machine for purposes including verifying that those voters had not cast ballots during Early Voting or on Election Day, and to prepare signature specimens for verification. These ballots were inspected, processed and counted by election judges on Friday, March 22, through Saturday, March 23, and are already reflected in the unofficial results at ChicagoElections.Gov."

Could Cook County SA race go to recount?

ABC7 Political analyst Laura Washington discusses results from the Illinois 2024 Primary Election.

City elections officials said we'll have a better idea of who may come out on top.

"We will see a drop off by this weekend of what has been appropriately post marked, we anticipate an upload early next week with final results," said Cook County Deputy Clerk of Elections Edmund Michalowski.

State law gives election officials until April 2 to count late-arriving ballots, but Chicago and Cook County expect to have a winner before then. And regardless of how tight the race ends up, Illinois law does not mandate an automatic recount. The losing candidate, if they are within 5% of the winning candidate, has to request a recount. That process could take several days.

The Democratic nominee will go on to face Republican Bob Fioretti and Libertarian Andrew Charles Kopinski in the November general election.