Despite some human error in posting the results to the internet, the certified results of the April consolidated election in Kane County are accurate, according to an investigation by the Kane County state’s attorney’s office.
State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser opened an investigation into the election after Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham’s election website experienced a roller coaster posting of vote totals. At about 8:45 p.m., vote totals on the website appeared to double without a corresponding increase in the number of precincts reporting. Then the website went offline. When it came back online, the vote totals shrank.
That event sparked a storm of questions about what happened, why it happened and whether the election results were accurate. A group of county residents, many of whom had already been questioning former President Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election, called for a public reckoning of the local election system. That sparked Mosser’s investigation.
Last week, Mosser said her investigation showed the problems stemmed from posting the election results to the clerk’s website. There were no problems with the actual collection or counting of the ballots cast.
The issues began because the clerk’s office needed to create two databases of the candidates and referendum questions. That happened because election staff found not everyone who should have been eligible to vote in the Hampshire Park District referendum would have been able to under the first database created. That original database did not account for some changes that followed redistricting in that specific race. Creating a second database fixed that problem without anyone missing their chance to vote on the question.
But on election night, election staff needed to use a program that takes the two different databases and fuses them in a way that doesn’t double-count any of the ballots. On election night, during one of the times staff went to transfer the ongoing vote count totals from the vote tabulation equipment onto the internet, an incorrect button was pushed that double-counted the votes only for what was to be posted on the internet (not in the actual counting of ballots, which is a separate system).
When the county’s IT staff spotted the error, they took the website down to minimize confusion. After correcting the mistake, the new and correct vote totals went up on the website.
“It never affected the tally numbers, and the tally numbers are what we are concerned with because those are the actual votes,” Mosser said. “There was no tampering with the election, and the results as certified are valid. It doesn’t mean we can’t do better for the future.”
Mosser said her office will take a more active role in the elections moving forward. Her staff will do a legal review of all election judge training materials to ensure they comply with state standards. They will also have more attorneys on the ground on election night to immediately respond to concerns and complaints coming from polling places. And there will be an additional procedure put in place to help ensure no human error occurs with posting vote totals to the clerk’s website.
The investigation seemed to soothe the concerns about the accuracy of the vote counts for residents who had questioned the outcomes. However, it did not enhance their trust in elections moving forward.
Residents called for a more secure chain of custody control over the USB drives that transfer vote totals from the tabulation equipment to the clerk’s website. Others pushed for a switch away from electronic voting in favor of paper balloting and hand counting of votes.
Some pushed for Cunningham’s resignation in light of the election night problems and his lack of public appearances to address the concerns of local voters.
“It’s disrespectful, in my eyes, to see the clerk won’t show up for these meetings, not once,” resident Michelle Bettag said. “And then he sends his office (staff), and they don’t know the answers either. It’s just not fair to the citizens.”
County board members told residents they have invited Cunningham and his full elections staff to appear at public meetings where the April election has been a topic.
“I don’t know why the elections staff isn’t here,” said Jarett Sanchez, chair of the county board committee the clerk reports to.
Cunningham is an elected official, meaning he has full authority over his office other than the amount of money the county board gives him to run that office. That, too, may now become a point of contention as some county board members are looking into what level of control they have over a $2 million grant the clerk was awarded from a local group with ties to the Democratic Party. Residents concerned about recent local elections have called for the rejection of that grant.