McHenry County ballot drop box unusable after hit by vehicle

County Clerk Joe Tirio said he doesn’t think crash was intentional, but person has yet to come forward

The ballot dropbox outside the McHenry County Clerk's Office was damaged on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, making it unusable going into next week's election.

The ballot drop box in front of the McHenry County Clerk’s Office in Woodstock was damaged Tuesday morning, and officials aren’t confident it will be fixed before next week’s election.

About 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, a person pulled into the parking lot of the McHenry County Administration Building and parked for about 30 seconds, a video shared by McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio shows.

The person then backed up from the spot, hitting the drop box with the rear of their vehicle, according to the video.

“They went a little too deep, [backing up] with their vehicle,” Tirio said.

The person, driving a white SUV, struck the ballot box and then got out to check their vehicle before driving away, the video shows. While the person has not come forward yet, Tirio does not think the act was intentional.

The corner of the ballot box that opens up to allow officials access inside was dented inward, Tirio said. Workers had to pry open the box to get ballots already deposited out. Less than 50 ballots were in the box at the time.

Workers tried to straighten the box out, but Tirio said the steel was too thick. Instead, they opted to “beat the door shut” and set up a temporary box in the lobby of the McHenry County Administration Building.

There are mailboxes you can drive up to. ... But if somebody did call us, we’d find a way to help them.

—  McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio on how people can drop off their mail-in ballots

Tirio’s focus is getting the box fixed or replaced, he said. However, with the election is just days out, he doesn’t think it’s likely he’ll be able to put the money together and have it ordered, delivered and installed before Election Day.

Despite the drop box being unusable, Tirio said he thinks people still be able to get their ballots to his office. In addition to the temporary box put inside the building, which is being monitored by security, he said any mailbox works as a drop box.

“There are mailboxes you can drive up to,” he said. “The post office has two large mailboxes. But if somebody did call us, we’d find a way to help them.”

Tirio also said the ballot box outside the county’s administrative building doesn’t receive much traffic.

The goal is also to identify the person who hit the box, Tirio said. His office gave the person 24 hours to come forward, but after not doing so, he decided to file a police report with the Woodstock Police Department.

The investigation is still in progress, with the officer covering the case working to identify the person involved, Deputy Chief Ray Lanz said.

It’s still too early to say whether there will be charges, Lanz said, as there are a number of factors that could have gone into the incident.

“It depends on the statement of the driver,” Lanz said. “Did he know that he hit it? Did he see any damage? Any medical reasons? There’s a whole complex box of things that we need to answer.”

If the box was damaged intentionally, it would be criminal damage, Lanz said. If accidental, it would be classified as a traffic infraction.

However, Tirio said he isn’t interested in any charges as he doesn’t think the box was damaged intentionally. Instead, he just wants to get the damages paid for and thinks that can be done through the driver or their insurance.

“I don’t believe there was malice involved,” Tirio said. “But the taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to fix this.”