By April 1, 2014, the Champaign County Clerk had determined that election day issues. which required an unprecedented county-wide retabulation of Democratic Primary ballots to correct, had in fact been resolved; and that the official results were now “100 percent accurate”. The official canvass was certified, the final summary report was prepared, and the results were proclaimed and delivered to the State Board of Elections as required by law. The Board is required to complete its own canvass of these results by Friday, April 18.
The question today for the Board and the public is: Are the results from Champaign County “100 percent accurate”? Unfortunately, they are not.
To confirm this statement, first be assured that when a voting machine accepts a ballot on election day, that machine must account for every vote in every contest on that ballot. It records valid votes, an over-vote (too many ovals filled), or under-votes (ovals left blank) for each race. Even if a contest has no candidate, it is not ignored. Instead, that uncontested race generates one under-vote. The formula is always: Processed votes = (votes + over-votes + under-votes). Also, the precinct total of ballots processed for any contest in the Democratic Primary can never exceed the total number of Democratic ballots cast in that precinct (shown at the top of each precinct report). Of course, the same is true for the Republican Primary. With this in mind, here are several anomalies apparent in the official precinct reports from the website of the Champaign County Clerk (links provided).
In Cunningham 14, there were 243 Democratic ballots processed, but 244 ballots were processed for the Democratic precinct committee candidate.
In City of Champaign 5, nine Democratic ballots total were processed, nine (combined) for the three candidates for Congress in the 13th District, and nine for the unopposed State Central Committeewoman in that district. But sixteen ballots were processed for the unopposed State Central Committeeman in that district. Since State Central Committeewoman and Committeeman are always paired, this should never happen. This situation recurs in Condit, but there three extra ballots were purportedly processed for State Central Committeewoman.
A bizarre situation exists in Cunningham 17, a precinct split between the 13th and 15th Congressional Districts. The unopposed Democratic candidates for Congress and State Committeeman in the 15th District had zero ballots processed – not surprising, since there were only two registered voters in that small area at the close of regular registration. But the Democratic Candidate for State Central Committeewoman had 63 ballots processed from that sparsely-inhabited area, and was credited with 44 actual votes!
Remarkably, these anomalies exist in the Republican Primary reports as well, contrary to the Clerk’s assurances that only the Democratic ballots were miscounted on election day.
In City of Champaign 34, 229 total Republican ballots were processed, but 243 materialized for the Precinct Committee candidate.
In Champaign 5, 348 total Republican ballots were processed, but only 347 for County Clerk, and 341 for their Precinct Committee candidate.
Finally, there is a special issue on the Republican Primary ballot which should be addressed promptly. The Honorable Lisa Holder White (Republican, Macon County) sought the nomination of her party for a 10 year term on the Fourth District Appellate Court. She was unopposed in the primary. However, the summary report assigns her 11,248 votes cast for her in Champaign County to a non-existent race for a seat on the Circuit Court. (No candidate filed for the Democratic party nomination, and the resulting under-votes are properly assigned to the Democratic Appellate Court contest).
It must be understood that all these examples are discrepancies, not facts. This means, for example, that no one claims that forty-four wraiths rose from the fields of northeast Urbana to vote at the Civic Center. However, they do serve as contradictions, which are routinely used in logic and mathematics to expose and disprove faulty assumptions. In this case, the faulty assumption is that the revised, official results for either party’s Primary Election in Champaign County is “100 percent accurate”.
The State Board of Elections should refrain from certifying the flawed results from Champaign County and including them in district totals until the county’s ballot processing issues have been identified and resolved.
All votes in Champaign County are recorded on paper ballots, which are machine scanned and tabulated. Each tabulating machine accounts for every ballot processed, reports results for each precinct assigned to it, and records for all contests in that precinct the valid votes counted, the invalid over-votes rejected, and any blank (under-votes) ignored for that contest. This information is recorded on the same sealed computer memory device which contains information required by the tabulator, especially the electronic descriptions of the various ballot styles assigned to that machine. After the polls close, the machine prints paper reports immediately for retention by the judges of election and any authorized poll-watchers. The judges of election (who are appointed by the Chairs of the two leading established parties) then remove the memory device and paper ballots, seal them in the presence of the poll-watchers, and immediately transport them to the Election Authority (in Champaign County, that is the County Clerk). There, under the supervision of the Authority, teams of election judges and workers from both parties receive, process, and store the election materials. The memory devices are read by a computer which uses software certified by the State Board of Elections to aggregate the data and produce the unofficial election results released on election night. The memory devices and paper ballots are sealed and secured to await any post-processing required. This includes machine re-tabulations and manual ballot counts on machines randomly selected by the State Board of Elections.
WHAT HAPPENED IN MARCH 2014?
The basic procedures above worked well in Champaign County throughout the era of punch cards (“chad” to the contrary notwithstanding), and, until now, were remarkably efficient with the current generation scanner technology. On March 18, 2014, the process was completed around 10pm, and the unofficial results produced at that time seemed plausible to everyone at the processing center. Of course, attention was focused on the critical races on both partisan ballots. It was morning before the irregularities in minor contests were identified. Then followed the events described in our post, which were widely reported in the press.
On Monday, March 24, the Clerk determined that the issues were isolated to the bottom of the Democratic Primary Ballot, and that by re-programming the tabulators with ballot definitions properly synchronized with the paper ballots, then re-processing all the Democratic Primary ballots, all symptoms would disappear. After the recount, updated unofficial results were posted, and he reassured voters that “we just went through a monumental effort to reissue these to make sure they’re 100 percent accurate”, and that new procedures would preclude these issues from recurring in the future. On April 1, the outstanding absentee and provisional ballots were absorbed, and the official results were proclaimed by posting them to the Champaign County Clerk’s official website and transmitting them to the State Board of Elections, as required by law. The Board will conduct its own certification procedures and incorporate Champaign County results with those from other counties by Friday, April 28, 2014.
The state mandated retabulation of results from the March 18, 2014, General Primary Election will occur Tuesday, March 25, 2014, at 9:00 AM in the Champaign County Election Supply Building, 202 South Art Bartell Road, Urbana, Illinois. The retabulation will be open to candidates, the press, representatives of political parties, and the public.
In past years this process has found no serious issues, but this will not be the case tomorrow. Examination of the Unofficial Results reported on Election Night revealed implausible results for five positions on Democratic ballots: State Central Committeeman (13th & 15th Congressional Districts), State Central Committeewoman (same districts), and Precinct Committeeperson (all precincts). It is now acknowledged that these implausible results are indeed incorrect. The errors were not detected during the routine tabulation process on election night. They will not be detected tomorrow during the initial phase of the retabulation procedure. Only when we attempt to reconcile the reported results with the actual paper ballots from selected precincts (see below) will we “discover” the discrepancies. The fault is so pervasive that it affects election results throughout Champaign County.
The County Clerk explains that the errors are the result of a synchronization failure between the layout of the paper ballots and their electronic counterparts in the tabulators. This caused the tabulators to associate some votes/undervotes with the wrong candidates/races in many precincts. This was not the fault of the voters, the election judges, the tabulating equipment, or the state-certified software which aggregates and reports the votes. The invalid results are entirely due to the failure of Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten to properly synchronize the paper ballots with their tabulator ballot descriptions.
To correct these unofficial results before they are certified, the Clerk proposes to correctly synchronize every tabulator with the ballots it processed, and then use those machines to recount all Democratic Ballots in Champaign County. I concur with this procedure. He has also agreed to employ a more comprehensive system pre-test for the November, 2014 election. That test, used in the past but discontinued as a cost-saving measure, would have detected this fault before election day.
This unprecedented county-wide retabulation will commence tomorrow afternoon at the Election Supply Building, and will continue from 8 – 11:30 AM and 12:30 – 4:30 PM each workday until the job is completed. I or my representative will be present with our election judges, and I invite any interested Democrat in Champaign County to drop by and observe the procedure. We will proceed in alphabetical township-precinct order, and I would expect “City of Champaign Township” and perhaps “Cunningham Township” (City of Urbana) to be reached sometime Wednesday.
For those who wish to attend tomorrow’s official re-tabulation, the precincts and machines randomly selected by the Illinois State Board of Elections are: Champaign 5, City of Champaign 19, City of Champaign 29, Kerr, Ludlow 1, Rantoul 6, and Voting Machine #1 at the Brookens Early Voting Center. Use East Main Street to Art Bartell Road, turn South, park behind the METCAD building, enter the Election Supply Building from the north door.
The Champaign County Democrats intend to slate a candidate for County Clerk in May for the November general election. If you wish to be considered, or if you know someone who should be considered, contact me or any local Democratic official, or write Info@ChampaignCountyDemocrats.org.
Here are links to videos of forums featuring all contested Democratic races in the March 18, 2014 primary election in Champaign County. Each candidate name is linked to a resource for campaign information.
These candidate forums were sponsored in February, 2014 by the Champaign County League of Women Voters, the NAACP, and the News-Gazette. They were recorded at the Champaign City Council chambers, and are broadcast on local cable television. The Champaign County Democrats thank these organizations for producing these events.
The Champaign County Democratic Party has endorsed C. PIUS WEIBEL (District 7) and SHANA JO HARRISON (District 9) as our preferred candidates in their districts for Champaign County Board in the March 18 Democratic primary election. The endorsement motion from the party’s Executive Board was presented and approved unanimously at the Wednesday, February 22 regular meeting of the Central Committee. No other endorsements in any other races were recommended to the committee.
Party endorsements in primary elections, while routine in much of Illinois, are rare in Champaign County. Discussion of the motion focused on two reasons for the committee to break precedent and endorse these two candidates at this time:
First, this action supports the Champaign County voters who have elected Democratic majorities on the County Board every two years for more than a decade. The incumbents in Districts 7 and 9 engaged in a back-room leadership deal with the Republicans in 2012. Their arrangement certainly suited the individuals involved, but it betrayed the trust of the voters who elected them and their Democratic colleagues elsewhere in the county. The County Democratic Party has a duty to support all Democratic voters and to deter such self-serving maneuvers in the future. We are confident that Mr. Weibel and Ms. Harrison will work with Republican board members to support the best interests of all Champaign County residents, regardless of party affiliation. We are confident also that if the voters choose to elect a Democratic County Board majority, Mr. Weibel and Ms. Harrison will respect that choice, and will work with the Democratic caucus to organize the the board and set its agenda.
Second, we believe Mr. Weibel and Ms. Harrison are progressive Democrats who will more effectively represent their districts. Pius Weibel is an experienced board member with a solid (and bipartisan) record of leadership. Shana Harrison, former President of the UIUC Illini Democrats, works with Champaign County organized labor and understands well the largely young and diverse residents of District 9.
The Party’s by-laws have allowed us to endorse candidates in primary elections since 2006. However, local Democrats have refrained from doing so until now. Many if not most of us prefer that the Party and its Chair never get involved in any primaries, and this is a first for us. Our unanimous decision signifies that we believe the stakes are just too high for us to sit quietly on the sidelines for these two races in this election.
Join us Sunday, October 20, 2013, at our Fall Dinner at the Laborers’ Local 703 Hall, 108 E Anthony Drive, Urbana IL. The cash bar opens and conversation begins at 5 pm; the dinner buffet will be available at 6 pm. Our speaking program should begin by 7 pm, and we will conclude by 9 pm.
The focus of the evening will be meeting and hearing from Democrats circulating petitions for nomination as our candidates for state and federal offices in 2014. Senator Dick Durbin and Governor Pat Quinn will be at the top of our ticket, with Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White also seeking re-election. Our own State Senator Michael Frerichs will be our nominee for State Treasurer, and Lt. Governor Sheila Simon for State Comptroller. Candidates for Representative in Congress (13th District) are George Gollin and David Green from Champaign County, and Ann Callis from Madison County. Our candidate in the 15th District is Eric Thorsland from rural Mahomet.
Retiring State Representative (103rd) Naomi Jakobsson will address us on the subject: Looking Where the Money Is Not: The Illinois Regressive Income Tax. Watch this space (and join our e-list) for the candidates seeking nomination for this seat.
Three candidates seeking to be the next representative from the 103rd District will speak to us Sunday: Mike Richards, Carol Ammons, and Sam Rosenberg.
Individual Dinner tickets at the door are $65, but PAY NOW AND SAVE $5! Use the Fall 2013 Order Form (pdf) to purchase tickets, sponsorships, or advertisements.
Join us from 3pm – 6pm Sunday at our annual late summer event celebrating volunteers, candidates, and supporters of the county party. A donation of $10 is suggested. We provide the beverages, and the Lloyd Carter family will prepare the BBQ. Additional food you bring to share is welcome. Use the Race Street entrance to the Garden Pavilion at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana. Explore the gardens, prairie restoration, and much more. Bicycle friendly. Covered outside pavilion with water and power.
Join us Sunday, April 28, 2013, for our Spring Dinner at the I-Hotel Convention Center, 1900 S First St., Champaign. The social hour begins at 5 pm; dinner is at 6 pm; our program begins at 7 pm.
The focus of the evening will be meeting and hearing from Democrats who are considering seeking our nomination for statewide and federal offices. Our own State Senator Mike Frerichs is considering a campaign for State Treasurer of Illinois. Candidates Mentioned for Representative in Congress (13th District) include George Gollin from Champaign County. And everyone expects U.S. Senator Dick Durbin to be at the head of our federal ticket; Bart Ellefritz will bring a message from the Senator.
These potential candidates have been invited to appear or send a representative to our dinner. Watch this space (and join our e-list) to keep up with the latest information.
Individual Dinner tickets at the door are $65, but PAY NOW AND SAVE $5! Use the Dinner Reservation Form (pdf) to purchase tickets or contribute to our GOTV effort.
A policy study (pdf) from the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College defines voter suppression as “any behavior intended to deter an eligible voter from casting a ballot”. With that definition in mind, consider the plight of many eligible voters who attempted to vote recently at the office of the County Clerk, who is the Election Authority in Champaign County.
You may have heard Clerk Gordy Hulten express his feelings about inconsiderate people who interrupt his busy day by attempting to use the Illinois “grace period” for last-minute address and registration changes. He believes those people, including many long time local voters, should be more responsible and better organized, and he has little sympathy for them. So little that he sent many voters home without voting and required them to win a game of postal ping-pong with him before he would accept their ballots. He says he does this out of fairness to the rest of us. It is not voter suppression. It is not voter harassment. It is what those people deserve. Perhaps instead they can cast an abridged “federal” ballot for president. (Unfortunately, that ballot does not include Mr. Hulten’s own race for clerk.) Its their own fault if they do not win the game before time runs out. Its the fair thing to do, and it defends the rest of us from their fraudulent ballots.
In fact, this is malarkey.
Read the “grace period” law below and decide for yourself what it says, no bar exam required. Then, I encourage you to fire Gordy Hulten and elect Charlie Smyth, who will always make time to accommodate the public. Voters like to fire public servants who do not serve them well. This is a great chance to do so!
As you read the law, note three items I have emphasized with boldface.
1. This is the sentence Mr. Hulten uses to justify sending voters home instead of letting them vote on the spot. I think it permits a voter to ask for a “take-out” ballot if the clerk agrees. He thinks it permits him to force that choice on everyone. However you read it, it certainly does not require the clerk to send the voter home without voting. (Senator Frerichs and Representative Jakobsson have announced that they will work to resolve any ambiguity so as to favor the voter.) In fact, almost every other Illinois clerk already permits or requires immediate voting. But if Mr. Hulten allowed that, how could he prevent voter fraud?
2. By computer! He could use computers to detect if newly registered voters have also registered elsewhere, and telephones to resolve any issues with his fellow clerks. And of course he would immediately mail (“DO NOT FORWARD – RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED”) new or revised voter id cards and see what happens. Of course, doing that would require him to hold those ballots safely aside for several days while he checks them out. Can he legally do that?
3. Yes, he can! In fact, he is not allowed to mix them with other ballots, he must keep them separate, and count them with the other absent voter ballots only after they are “determined to be valid”. That is presumably what he will do with any grace-period ballots that survive the game and are delivered or postmarked before election day.
I think Gordy Hulten’s behavior fits the Dartmouth definition of voter suppression. Champaign County needs a clerk who encourages every eligible citizen to vote, and who facilitates voting by everyone. Elect Charlie Smyth your County Clerk!
Sec. 4-50. Grace period. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Code to the contrary, each election authority shall establish procedures for the registration of voters and for change of address during the period from the close of registration for a primary or election and until the 3rd day before the primary or election. During this grace period, an unregistered qualified elector may register to vote, and a registered voter may submit a change of address form, in person in the office of the election authority or at a voter registration location specifically designated for this purpose by the election authority. The election authority shall register that individual, or change a registered voter’s address, in the same manner as otherwise provided by this Article for registration and change of address. If a voter who registers or changes address during this grace period wishes to vote at the first election or primary occurring after the grace period, he or she must do so by grace period voting, either in person in the office of the election authority or at a location specifically designated for this purpose by the election authority, or by mail, at the discretion of the election authority. Grace period voting shall be in a manner substantially similar to voting under Article 19. Within one day after a voter casts a grace period ballot, the election authority shall transmit the voter’s name, street address, and precinct, ward, township, and district numbers, as the case may be, to the State Board of Elections, which shall maintain those names and that information in an electronic format on its website, arranged by county and accessible to State and local political committees. The name of each person issued a grace period ballot shall also be placed on the appropriate precinct list of persons to whom absentee and early ballots have been issued, for use as provided in Sections 17-9 and 18-5.
A person who casts a grace period ballot shall not be permitted to revoke that ballot and vote another ballot with respect to that primary or election. Ballots cast by persons who register or change address during the grace period must be transmitted to and counted at the election authority’s central ballot counting location and shall not be transmitted to and counted at precinct polling places. The grace period ballots determined to be valid shall be added to the vote totals for the precincts for which they were cast in the order in which the ballots were opened.
(Source: P.A. 96-441, eff. 1-1-10; 97-766, eff. 7-6-12.)