Thursday, March 23, 2006

Illinois - Tuesday's Election Results Not Final (voting machine problems!)

The results of Illinois's Tuesday, March 21, 2006 primary elections remain "unofficial," and in some cases incomplete, due to slow results in Chicago and Cook County. In some categories, results in only the contested races are given. Check,0,2520894.htmlstory#statewide for updates.

New machines, poor training slowed count

Precincts uncounted even after Wednesday

By James Janega, John McCormick and David Kidwell, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporters Josh Noel, Carlos Sadovi, Courtney Flynn, Charles Sheehan, Hal Dardick, Tonya Maxwell, David Mendell
Published March 23, 2006

As ballot counting stretched into a second night, judges and election officials on Wednesday blamed confusion in the primary election on vast numbers of poll workers who had not been trained for Cook County's complicated new electronic voting system.

Most of them had barely studied machines that scanned paper ballots or enabled touch-screen voting. Many didn't see those devices--or the one used to combine and send their information--until Election Day.

Langdon Neal, chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, further said that 4,000 of Chicago's 14,000 election judges attended no training and instead relied on a judge's manual that was sent in the mail and was written in a complicated and confusing manner.

"The way it worked in the class and the way it worked in real life was different," said Bill Anderson, 58, a 38th Ward election judge who took a three-hour class last week at Wright Junior College.

"We were told it was going to work as 'A, B, C, D', and it didn't happen like that," he said. The election judges endured glitches, missing equipment and pervasive questions surrounding Cook County's $54 million electronic voting system, which bogged down on its inaugural run.

But judges' headaches during the day were nothing compared to that night, when a second wave of technical problems arose while combining votes from two different voting methods and trying to transmit them on a third. The equipment is made by California-based Sequoia Voting Systems.

Amid a tumbling backlog of voting data, returns were pushed so late that many judges simply packed up their polling places late Tuesday or early Wednesday and went home. In the confusion, county and city officials had no idea which precincts were accounted for and which were not, or where records of their votes were.

At noon Wednesday, Chicago was missing 252 memory cartridges, 93 from machines that scanned in paper ballots and 159 from touch screens. County officials couldn't find 162 memory cartridges from suburban precincts--68 from optical-scanning machines and 94 for touch-screen balloting.

The problems led midday to the sight of Cook County Director of Elections Clem Balanoff--his tie loosened and eyes bleary--rifling through blue duffel bags at a county warehouse for precinct returns for uncounted votes on missing memory cartridges.

The frantic count took a pause Wednesday afternoon when Forrest Claypool, Democratic challenger for Cook County Board president, conceded defeat by a razor-thin margin to incumbent John Stroger. He said slow vote reporting had delayed the outcome but didn't influence it.

With the county's highest-profile race settled, attention turned to others.

Residents in Bellwood, for example, are waiting to learn about a $14 million referendum proposal for a new library. At the end of counting Wednesday, results were roughly tied with 62 percent of the vote in and counting to resume Thursday.

"It's still a jump ball," said Mayor Frank Pasquale.

There were dozens of other referendum proposals on the ballot, some close, their outcomes equally unknown.


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