Software issue led to problem voting nonpartisan in McHenry County, clerk says

McHenry County Clerk’s Office offered workaround for nine voter requests

Election 2024
Election Judge Steve Krause opens up the voting machines Friday, June 24, 2022, at the McHenry County Administration Building, 667 Ware Road in Woodstock. Polls are open from 6 a.m until 7 p.m. today for people to cast their ballot in the in the primary election.

Christine Russell of Crystal Lake just wanted to vote on her park district’s referendum, but not in the Illinois party primary elections.

When she asked for a nonpartisan ballot at her local polling place, “the election judges didn’t know how to deal with me,” Russell said Tuesday evening.

The judges told Russell she had to declare a party to vote.

In Illinois, voters may ask for a nonpartisan ballot when there are other issues on the primary ballot, McHenry County Clerk Joseph Tirio said.

When Russell could not receive a ballot without declaring a party at her local polling place, she contacted the Northwest Herald, which directed her to the County Clerk’s Office.

There, she was told there was a “vendor issue” with the software. It would not allow voters to receive a ballot without declaring a party preference.

Tirio confirmed that issue on Wednesday, adding that Russell and another person with her voted at his office.

“It was the software,” he said of the issue, which would not let a voter not declare a party. “We were in touch with the vendor as soon as we got word it was happening.”

There was no way to deliver an update to voting machines from software vendor Robis Elections, as the election was ongoing, so a workaround was determined, he said.

That workaround was to cross out the party affiliation on the voter application, write in “nonpartisan” and update those voter records after the election, he said.

“We go back through the applications to vote as part of the canvassing process and … where those are corrected will make the corrections in the database,” Tirio said.

Across the county, there were two referendum questions that did not require party affiliation: one in Harvard asking for a 1% sales tax increase and another for the Crystal Lake Park District, asking for extended commissioner terms. Both questions were on track to be voted down by voters based on incomplete, unofficial totals Wednesday.

In total, nine people in McHenry County requested a nonpartisan ballot, Tirio said.

There were other minor issues at some polling places, like printers that would not print or computers that would not connect to the system, he said.

“We walk them through fixing it,” he said of his office and election judges. None of those caused significant delays, Tirio said.

Tirio also reminded voters that if they encounter problems with voting during any elections to call the County Clerk’s Office. A phone number for voters with Election Day problems is on its website. A second hotline number is given to election judges for when problems arise, he said.

Russell said she was told her nonpartisan ballot would be updated in the county record keeping system. She plans to verify that it was noted on her voting records, she said.