Election Law @ Moritz

2006 Election Overview

2006 Elections Overview

Overview of Illinois Voting Process in November, 2006

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The Illinois November election involved serious voting administration problems, many of which had occurred previously in the March primary. The worst problems were:

  • In Cook County, technological problems delayed transmission of results from precincts to election authorities. Results had to be hand-delivered by police officers. Election officials were aware of the problem since the March primary, yet failed to sufficiently address it.
  • In response to delays, crowds of political supporters thronged the offices of election officials and made a scene.
  • Many polling places ran out of special pens used to mark optical scan ballots, creating delays.
  • In Kane County, many polling places opened late because election judges were not sufficiently trained to set up voting machines. A judge ordered the polling places be kept open late and that all votes cast after the normal cutoff be cast provisionally.

Successes of the election included:

  • Illinois’ first general election early voting period went smoothly.

Technology problems

The computers used by suburban Cook County officials to forward election results failed, creating overnight delays in close contests. Equipment blamed for sluggish local returns, Chicago Tribune, November 9, 2006. Eventually officials ordered that results that could not be transmitted electronically should be transported manually by police. David Orr’s fiasco, Chicago Tribune, November 9, 2006. County Clerk David Orr blamed the delays on machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems, and promised to appoint a panel of experts to determine the cause of the failure. Cook County experienced similar difficulties in the March primary election and “beefed up backup transmission centers” to help address the problem, apparently to no avail.

Cook County also reported precincts with optical scanners that would not accept ballots and touch-screen machines that would not work properly. Cook County has another rocky day at polls, Chicago Tribune, November 8, 2006.

Sangamon County reported that some of its touch-screen machines were too sensitive and had to be recalibrated. LLLC worker mistakenly chucks campaign signs, Springfield State Journal-Register, November 8, 2006.

Overall, Cook County officials received approximately 1,500 complaints about the county’s voting machines. Vote does not compute: County logs 1,500 gripes on machines, Chicago Sun-Times, December 11, 2006. Apart from the problems described above, officials also received reports of machines altering voters’ ballot choices. This phenomenon led to allegations that some machines had been “rigged.”

In DuPage County, a candidate alleged in a recount petition that the content of some memory cards containing voter information was not “uploaded” until three days after the election, and that there were more votes cast than ballots issued in at least one precinct. Democrat seeks recount in race for Daniels’ seat, Chicago Tribune, December 5, 2006.

In early voting, some jurisdictions found that dirt and grime on the hands of some voters interfered with the operation of keycards used in some kinds of touch screen voting machines. Voters have last word, Chicago Tribune, November 7, 2006. Reports also identified a few incidents where a voter attempted to vote for one candidate, but the machine registered a vote for one of the candidate’s opponents. Voting equipment glitches lingering, Chicago Tribune, November 2, 2006. Officials stated that this type of switching can occur where the machines are not properly calibrated.

In addition, the Chicago Board of Elections’ web site contained a programming flaw that made it easy for hackers to enter the Board’s database to learn the social security numbers of voters or even change their registration information. Hack cracked, Chicago Sun-Times, October 24, 2006. The Board fixed the problem immediately, and said that any hacking activity could only have affected the database temporarily because it is updated with accurate information daily.

Changes in election administration

Illinois voters enjoyed the opportunity to vote early, and officials reported the process generally went well. County clerks around the region say early voting ran smoothly, Daily Herald, November 3, 2006. However, officials did state that some touch screen machines needed re-calibration, and also reported problems with VVPAT paper rolls having to be replaced.

Supply problems

Some polling places did not have the pens required to mark Illinois’ optical scan ballots. David Orr’s fiasco, Chicago Tribune, November 9, 2006. Compounding the problem, some election judges failed to offer affected voters the option of casting their ballots on touch-screen equipment. The Cook County Republican Chairman stated that some suburban voters left polling places in frustration due to the lack of pens, but Cook County Clerk David Orr stated that he was not aware of any voters leaving the polls for this reason. Lack of pens bogs down balloting, Chicago Sun-Times, November 8, 2006. Poll workers were eventually informed that regular blue or black pens could be used provided their ink did not leak through the paper ballots. County has another rocky day at polls, Chicago Tribune, November 8, 2006.

In Sangamon County, some voters complained there weren’t enough voting machines to make voting efficient. Voters: More electronic machines needed, Springfield State Journal-Register, November 9, 2006. County officials are considering changing the existing formula for determining the number of machines in each precinct, which is currently based on the number of registered voters in each precinct. The new system might be based on voter turnout.

Polling places opening late

In Kane County, 136 out of 223 precincts failed to open by the 6 a.m. deadline. Human error gets blame in Kane County elections, Chicago Tribune, November 17, 2006; Voting troubles mar clerk’s re-election, Chicago Tribune, November 9, 2006. Reports indicate that the delay was caused mainly by insufficient training on the county’s new machines, not by equipment failure. A preliminary report stated that about ten of the affected precincts served predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods. Polls had to stay open longer in Kane County after problems, Daily Herald, November 8, 2006. Circuit Court Judge Keith Brown ordered that polling places be kept open an additional ninety minutes to permit further voting, a move that Democrats charged was unconstitutional and overreaching. High court lets extended vote stand, Chicago Tribune, November 16, 2006. The Democrats had sought extended voting in twenty of those precincts, but the Judge Brown went beyond that request by extending voting in all of them. However, he also mandated that all ballots cast after the traditional 7 p.m. deadline be cast as provisional ballots. Machine disruptions rule the day, Chicago Tribune, November 8, 2006. Officials had to physically drive to some polling places to give workers news of the order because cell phones distributed for this purpose were not working. In Kane election, cell phones fizzled, but hot line saved day, Chicago Tribune, December 6, 2006.

The Illinois Supreme Court denied a Democratic request to overturn Judge Brown’s order, but Democrats had the opportunity to revisit the issue in Circuit Court. High court lets extended vote stand, Chicago Tribune, November 16, 2006. Election officials indicate that about 1,100 provisional ballots were cast during the extended period—ballots that the high court ordered officials to refrain from counting until November 20. Those ballots were eventually counted and did not change any election outcomes. Election results unchanged in Kane after tally, Chicago Tribune, November 22, 2006. Later, the Circuit Court ruled that all provisional ballots cast after the deadline in all affected precincts were eligible to be counted. Kane County judge backs counting overtime ballots, Chicago Tribune, November 29, 2006. However, Democrats are looking to find still other avenues to challenge the counting of those ballots.

Security problems

Early Wednesday morning, supporters of Cook County Board presidential candidate Tony Peraica “stormed” county offices where ballots were being counted. Election brawl, Chicago Tribune, November 9, 2006. They were upset by county delays in forwarding election results and began pounding windows and chanting Peraica’s name. Raising a ruckus in the wee hours, Chicago Tribune, November 9, 2006. The Chicago Tribune reported that election workers delivering votes were attacked, a freight elevator was broken, and one person was arrested. Police arrived and things settled down around 3 a.m.

In DuPage County, one candidate seeking a recount alleged that some ballot boxes were not properly sealed after the election. Democrat seeks recount in race for Daniels’ seat, Chicago Tribune, December 5, 2006.

Miscellaneous items

  • In Chicago, some voters complained about being pressured to sign petitions. Lack of pens bogs down balloting, Chicago Sun-Times, November 8, 2006. The same story reported that a “handful” of election judges showed up drunk to the polls.
  • Kane County established a toll-free hotline for voters experiencing voting problems. Kane sets up vote hot lines, Chicago Tribune, November 5, 2006.
  • A hacker twice broke into the DuPage County Election Commission’s web site and added phony qualifications to the site’s list of qualifications necessary for voting. Web hackers mar DuPage election site, Chicago Tribune, October 28, 2006. Officials said that voter registration files were not affected.
  • Some jurisdictions switched from optical scan to DRE voting due to the multiplicity of printed ballots necessary in optical scan voting. Is the election tamper-proof? Mostly officials say, Daily Herald, October 25, 2006.
  • In McHenry County, the names of two judges were left off absentee ballots distributed to about 2,000 voters. Judges not on absentee ballots, Daily Herald, October 21, 2006.
  • For other litigation surrounding the November election, see Major Pending Cases or the Major Pending Cases Archives.