September 30, 2023


Kane County election website failure fuels more integrity doubts

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham looks at the early voting and vote by mail statistics in his office on Nov. 3.

Kane County residents who already are suspicious of how local elections are run found a catalyst for those feelings when the county clerk’s website failed on election night.

Now they are demanding detailed answers to their questions – a desire Kane County Board members believe should be publicly addressed.

The heart of the issue stems from a decrease in the number of votes several candidates had in multiple races between the time the clerk’s website failed and when the clerk’s office posted a PDF featuring unofficial vote totals to the election results page a couple of hours later. Some of the races saw hundreds of fewer votes when the clerk’s office posted the PDF.

“There’s no way [Kane County Clerk] Jack Cunningham or the public can have any confidence in this election,” said Ken Zitko, one of the people expressing concerns to the county board last week. “There is no simple IT explanation that makes this go away. The only solution we have is a new election, paper ballots, hand-counted. This election is a disaster.”

Zitko is among a group of local Republicans who already were concerned about the operations of Cunningham’s office. That concern stems from the pending acceptance of a $2 million grant from a Chicago-based nonprofit group with ties to the Democratic Party. Zitko and others believe that money will lead to liberal influences in the conduct of local elections.

Even before that, a smaller group of local Republicans spent several months expressing feelings that Kane County elections had flaws contributing to former President Donald Trump’s failed reelection. Similar concerns played out in lawsuits across the country that produced no substantive evidence of widespread election fraud, according to the rulings in those cases.

That said, frustrations about the failure of Cunningham’s website during the consolidated election spread across party lines.

In a Daily Herald report, Kane County Chief Information Officer Roger Fahnestock explained the website failure as a problem with loading the vote totals from USB drives onto the website rather than a flaw in the actual vote tabulation equipment. The vote-counting equipment had the correct totals, but those totals were not being compiled correctly on the website.

No officials in the clerk’s office have made themselves available to concerned voters or the county board to publicly answer questions about what happened.

The public concerns pushed county board member Cliff Surges, a Republican, to ask what mechanism the board has to compel Cunningham or anyone in the clerk’s office to come to a public meeting to answer questions and be accountable.

County board Chair Corinne Pierog, a Democrat, agreed with Surges that such a public session needs to occur. She said everyone was “rather shocked” by the website’s failure.

“This will be addressed,” Pierog said. “It does require further explanation to make sure we have true integrity and belief that our votes will be counted. It may be something innocent. It may be something we can fix and repair to make sure that it does not happen again.”

The goal is to have Cunningham appear at the next meeting of the county board’s public service committee. That meeting is set for 9 a.m. Thursday, April 20, in the board room at the county government center in Geneva.