The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

November 7, 2012

Absentee ballots slow count

DANVILLE — An influx of early and absentee voting turned out to be too much of a good thing for city and county election officials on Tuesday.

Always wanting a good turnout for elections, the Danville Election Commission and Vermilion County Clerk’s Office saw their wish come true this year when each reported around 2,000 early and absentee votes cast prior to Tuesday’s General Election.

The turnout became a letdown Tuesday night, however, when both offices ran into problems making sure the ballot numbers balanced.

“We were so inundated within the last week and a half, the bookkeeping got a little sloppy,” said Barbara Dreher, executive director of the election commission. “The numbers were not mathematically what they were supposed to be.”

Making sure the early and absentee ballots were correct Tuesday night is as high a priority as counting the votes cast on Tuesday.

“Until you can make all of it balance at the end of the night, you’re there,” said county clerk Lynn Foster.

For Tuesday, 19,659 residents turned out from a total of 30,362 registered voters in the county. In Danville, 10,754 ballots were cast out of 17,840 registered voters. Vote totals for both the city and county were posted online a little after 10 p.m.

Aside from the assault of early and absentee ballots, both offices reported similar inconveniences during the course of the day.

“What it was is in a presidential year or hotly contested year, you get so much better turnout,” Foster said. “That means a lot of new voters and you also get voters who are not regular voters.

“So these are voters that tend to have issues and need a little bit more guidance,” she said.

Dreher said she had to use a hotline to the Secretary of State’s Office several times Tuesday after residents claimed they had registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“We give the Secretary of State information and they look up the paperwork and tell us what happened,” she said. “A lot of times the person has signed a declination of registration.”

Both women also said they ran into several instances of people who had moved into the area or to another address and not updated their voter registration. In those instances, people could still fill out a ballot for the federal races.

While turnout at the polls was excellent, the same can’t be said for the traditional precinct vote total posting gathering on Election Night at David S. Palmer Arena. Both the city and county transported equipment to post numbers Tuesday night, but packed things up.

Foster said only a couple of people came by the arena to see the figures, but left after getting the website address for the county’s election totals.

For Dreher, she said space problems with the Festival of Trees set up prompted her not to post totals, citing a number of tripping hazards from festival decorations as well as a cramped space with no available outlets to plug in equipment.

It is the latest chapter for an election tradition that has received less and less interest in recent years. Foster said she thought this could be the last county election for the arena.

“I would like to still have a physical place — maybe use a projector and project totals on the screen,” she said, adding there’s been no formal discussion with Dreher at this point. “Maybe a smaller place where people can still gather if they choose.”

Correction

Vermilion County Board District 7 figures in Wednesday’s edition did not include absentee ballots. The correct figures are: John Dreher, 1,399; Michael Dodge, 1,249; Larry Mills, 1,245; Craig Golden, 1,222; and Neal Boyd, 1,144.

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