This is the second in a series of articles outlining competitive primary races in McHenry County ahead of the June 28 primary. Check out nwherald.com over the next month and beyond for more election coverage. Click here to read an article about the primary race in McHenry County Board’s District 2.
With issues from ballots and counting votes marring recent elections in McHenry County, two candidates in the Democratic party are hoping for the chance to set a new course.
Andrew “Drew” Georgi of Hebron and Mary Mahady of McHenry will compete in June for the Democratic nomination, the winner of which will go to to face incumbent Joe Tirio in November.
Tirio, as well as the administration before him, saw a variety of issues in recent years, including incorrect ballot language, ballot formatting changes messing up vote total and a Supreme Court decision that found Tirio erred in removing a referendum question from the ballot.
A report released by Tirio’s office following the 2021 municipal elections – in which a recount was done – determined that human error had led to the miscount because an earlier version of the ballot designed was used by the county’s vote counting machines.
Both Georgi and Mahady said their hope is to correct the county’s recent election woes.
Preventing future issues with vote counts and ballots will require someone with an eye for detail, Mahady said, while Georgi said one of his focuses would be the security of the voting systems.
Neither think voter fraud is an issue, but Georgi said he’s worried about how susceptible the voting machines might be to issues such as hacking.
To that end, Georgi said he would advocate for a bigger hand audit. A new policy rolled out by Tirio this year calls for a 5% audit of random ballots to ensure consistency, as well as a random sample of ballots being hand counted.
Georgi said he wants to increase the audit to 10%.
“Your level of confidence isn’t high at 5%,” he said. “It’s just to make you feel good.”
Mahady said she has seen no evidence for voter fraud and her concern lies more in human error. This comes down to a lack of preparation and not enough attention to detail, she said.
The state’s 5% policy is more of a minimum, but she said she would wait and see if the policy was enough before committing to any change from it.
“I’m concerned with correcting those issues, so they don’t happen again,” she said. “We need to do what we have to do to make sure it’s right.”
Training of election judges is something both candidates said they think can be made more robust.
Georgi said the manuals and handbooks sent home with election judges doesn’t cover everything it needs to.
Mahady said it comes to down preparation and making sure the judges have enough practice leading up to election day. As it stands, she said, there’s not enough of that going on.
“I’ve talked to a lot of election judges who don’t want to do it anymore because they don’t feel they were trained properly,” Mahady said.
Feedback from employees, election judges, and other regulatory bodies was something Georgi said he wanted to emphasize, as well as transparency in processes, including how and when voter lists are purged. He also wants to improve where voting precincts are located, saying many of the locations are small and don’t allow for the level of access needed.
Voter turnout was another key aspect of both campaigns.
“Our voter turnout sucks, I’m sorry,” Georgi said. “It’s just the pits.”
Georgi said one thing he wants to do is work with local schools to get younger voters registered when they’re eligible.
Mahady said the office itself does a lot outside of elections as well, and she thinks she can excel in those tasks.
“There’s a lot that goes on there and an immense amount of information that’s under the control of the person in that office,” she said.
Georgi ran for county clerk in 2018. In his two decades in politics, he has worked on other campaigns and also ran unsuccessfully for the McHenry County Board. He currently works in quality control in the manufacturing sector, he said.
Before entering politics, he was in the Marine Corps where he helped improve administrative processes, he said. In recent years, he’s been working with the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project, which he launched a chapter of in McHenry County, he said.
“I eat, sleep and breathe election law,” he said. “You’ve got to keep improving. You can’t sit back and think things are great. That’s where we get in trouble.”
Mahady, who currently serves as the McHenry Township assessor, has been in real estate for more than 30 years. She has also served on the McHenry County Board of Review.
She said her motivation for running is to “fix things in her own backyard,” saying she sees some issues with how things are currently run and wants to improve those processes.
“I believe I have the skills and the experience to go in and make some changes that will better serve the public,” she said. “You can’t just sit on the sidelines.”
Both candidates said they have respect for each other and their experience, but didn’t shy away in saying they think they are the better choice for the role.
Georgi said he feels like he has more direct experience with elections and the administrative work needed to do the job. He said he feels Mahady’s background makes her more suited for finance, such as treasurer.
“She’s only been around since 2017, and I haven’t seen her as part of the party,” he said. “Before she was elected the first time, we didn’t know anything about her.”
Mahady said she has experience running a government office and a different set of skills than Georgi, which she said would be valuable in hiring and managing staff, as well as solving problems.
“I know what I can do, and I believe my experience is better than his in this particular role,” she said. “We believe a lot of the same things, but it’s a matter of how things get done.”