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Houston, we have a problem

Friday, Nov 14, 2014

* Sun-Times

A Chicago election official has been fired in the aftermath of a contentious election that has resulted in a criminal probe of disruptive robocalls and complaints about “irregularities” in handling ballots in the state treasurer’s race. […]

But the firing comes amid complaints from the campaign of Republican candidate for state treasurer Tom Cross. A lawyer for the campaign wrote a letter to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners about “numerous irregularities identified by election monitors in the handling of ballots” for the Nov. 4 election.

“In fact, we are informed and believe that at least one employee of the [Chicago Board of Election Commissioners] has been terminated in conjunction with — if not because of — these irregularities,” lawyer William J. Quinlan wrote in the letter dated Thursday, which was obtained by Early & Often.

Quinlan claims there have been issues with absentee ballots, including errors in counting of those ballots and the discovery of absentee ballots in a closet at the board of elections’ “premises.” Some issues he notes regarding provisional ballots includes ballots left behind at polling places and ballots received after the Nov. 5 deadline, according to the letter.

Allen, of the Chicago Board of Election, said the agency “will respond point by point to the credibility, or lack thereof” of the allegations.

* The Board’s response is, indeed, point by point. You can read the whole thing by clicking here.

For instance

Regarding your second point, your claim that an “additional” 1,406 absentee ballots were “discovered” in a closet on or about November 12, is also inaccurate. There were unopened absentee ballot envelopes containing absentee ballots located in different parts of the Absentee Department that were consolidated, placed in sealed cases, and then placed in a secure, locked closet in a locked room used by the Board’s head of security… (T)he “existence” of these ballots was, in fact, previously known by Republican Party watchers and Mr. Fogarty. These ballot envelopes were consolidated into sealed cases and stored in a locked room. Mr. Fogarty was allowed to extensively examine these ballot envelopes.


Finally, regarding an employee who was terminated by the Board, I am not going to discuss personnel issues. However, any and all matters that could affect the integrity of absentee ballots, including any such matters that might involve the employee in question, have been fully discussed with Mr. Fogarty as well as with representatives for the Democratic Party and are discussed in this letter as well.

* But check this out. If the race winds up within 500 or so votes, we’ve got a big problem on our hands

Next, regarding your fourth point, there were indeed 99 absentee ballots that were not received by the Board in a timely manner yet ended up being commingled with otherwise valid absentee ballots. The Board learned early morning on Friday, November 7, that some absentee ballot envelopes received too late to be counted were permitted to be brought down to the room where valid absentee ballots were being processed. Upon learning this, the processing of absentee ballots was immediately suspended. Procedures to address this problem were drafted and Board staff and I met with lawyers from both political parties, including Mr. Fogarty, to discuss solutions to the problem. Ballot envelopes indicating they were received too late to be counted were removed from the absentee ballot processing room. However, there were 99 “too late” absentee ballot envelopes that had already been opened and the ballots within those envelopes had already been inter-filed with valid ballots organized behind ward and precinct header cards. All absentee ballots in those precincts and with the same ballot style were removed and segregated. In all, the Board identified a total of 558 absentee ballots, including the 99 “too late” ballots, that were pulled and segregated.

I want to emphasize that absolutely no absentee ballots, ballot envelopes or other materials were “discarded or destroyed” as you allege in you letter. Everything has been preserved.

I did inform Mr. Fogarty that, because it was impossible to identify which of the 558 absentee ballots were the 99 “too late” ballots and remove those 99 from counting without disenfranchising the other 459 voters who cast timely and valid absentee ballots, it was the Board’s plan to count all these ballots separately so as to produce a separate count and then to preserve those ballots separately. In that way, the political parties can be armed with information that they may use in any post-election court proceedings and may seek whatever remedy they wish before the court.


I’m wondering if that’s why the guy was fired.


This could take forever to sort out.

* In other news, Scott Kennedy updated his numbers

I was told that Hancock County had updated numbers so I called during lunch and sure enough they do. They added 511 votes over what was previously publicly available and Cross gained 127 votes. They also said this was their final count and would have no further updates. The current margin is Tom Cross by 664 votes.

I will check everything again either tonight or more likely tomorrow.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 3:36 pm:

    This is starting to get messy, and we have not even hit the recount or litigation stages.

    Oy, indeed.

  2. - Robert the Bruce - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 3:36 pm:

    While it was a bad mistake, I appreciate the specificity of the Board of Elections’ response. Here’s hoping that the tally from the 558 won’t make a difference.

  3. - Almost the Weekend - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 3:50 pm:

    I think it’s more interesting how Hancock County (total population 19,104) added 511 votes since election night. But oh well I guess Chicago Corruption has a better jingle than Hancock corruption. (Previous paragraph is complete sarcasm)

  4. - Anonymoiis - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 3:51 pm:

    If you havin ballot problems I feel bad for ya son. I got 99 problems if this race ain’t won

  5. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 3:59 pm:

    Pack a lunch…for a month.


  6. - Been There - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 4:09 pm:

    Those Hancock County votes are really good votes for Cross. The percentage of net votes for Cross is about the same as the original election day vote total percentages but the fact that the new votes are almost 10% of the day-of votes is what is worrisome. If the rest of the downstate counties and boards have 10% of their votes left to count that will greatly eat into Frerichs Chicago and Cook’s expected new votes from the outstanding absentees and provisional. But I doubt all those counties have as high a percentage still outstanding as this. But who knows. Also, Frerichs did well in some downstate counties.

  7. - Tom 23 - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 4:12 pm:

    – Almost The Weekend — good point. That would be the equivalent of Cook County adding 125,000 votes after the election.

    And speaking of Cook and Chicago, it seems we’ve received no updated numbers from them since Monday….have the stopped counting? How many uncounted ballots are they holding?

  8. - DDo3 - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 4:13 pm:

    9,900 plus 1,500 does indeed equal 11,400. Not 16,000.

  9. - ajtg - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 4:35 pm:

    “If the race winds up within 500 or so votes, we’ve got a big problem on our hands…”

    Actually, its if it winds up within 99 there could be a problem. Just because 99 bad votes were mixed in with 459 votes doesn’t make the 459 bad. The maximum number of votes the 99 would sway in either direction is 99 for either candidate.

  10. - MrJM - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 4:41 pm:

    If 99 untimely absentee ballots (UABs) were improperly counted but it is impossible to determine which of the 558 absentee ballots were untimely, the courts are likely to use the “proportionate reduction method of adjustment.”

    Under the proportionate reduction method of adjustment, a precinct that returned a 2 to 1 margin for the Democratic over the Republican candidate would have 2/3 of a vote deducted from Democrat’s total and 1/3 deducted from the Republican’s total for every UAB to be removed.

    While the legality of the proportionate reduction method of adjustment is established* the interesting question in this case would be what pool of ballots would determine the proportions to be reduced and then be subsequently reduced.

    Will the proportions be determined by precinct, i.e. will each precinct with one or more UABs have its total reduced proportionately based on the UABs? That’s what would happen if all of the erroneous ballots were cast in a single precinct.

    Or will the 558 segregated absentee ballots be treated as the pool to which the proportionate reduction method is applied? The fact that the 558 segregated absentee ballots have been kept separate and apart from the other absentee ballots makes the latter scheme, while novel, arguable. An adventurous attorney could argue that such a scheme is in the interests of justice and election integrity because it minimizes the number of voters’ ballots affected by the downward adjustment, i.e. just 459 voters rather than every voter in every precinct from which a UAB originated.

    If I were running either of those campaigns for treasurer, I’d want a good idea — based on the voting proclivities of the precincts in question — which pool would be the most advantageous for me to get proportionately reduced.

    But I’ve probably been getting more sleep than they have.

    – MrJM

    * Okay, “pretty well established” — this is Illinois election law. The constitutionality of the proportionate reduction method was determined in In re Purported Election of Drew. No. 01-MR-388 (Lake Cty. Cir. Oct. 25, 2001) This decision was appealed but then withdrawn when the incumbent election winner — wait for it! — died. Like I said: “Illinois election law”.

  11. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 4:50 pm:

    That is THE most - MrJM ever wrote.


    I learned loads.

    Thanks, OW

  12. - Been There - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 5:05 pm:

    ===a 2 to 1 margin for the Democratic over the Republican candidate would have 2/3 of a vote deducted from Democrat’s total====
    Don’t forget the Libertarian. Actually they have a weird situation down there now. I don’t know the details but something happened that effected 4 votes over at the County. 3 votes were for Frerichs and 1 for the Lib. One of them should not have counted. But because of what MrJM says above Cross is going to end up with a 1/4 of a vote even though they know nobody voted for him.

  13. - Amalia - Friday, Nov 14, 14 @ 5:23 pm:

    poor Langdon.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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