The following memo is from the State Board of Elections employee tasked to take a look at the conduct of the primary elections by McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellen.
The investigation was requested by State Rep. David McSweeney.
I visited the McHenry County Clerk’s office on the morning of Tuesday, March 22, 2016 to do the initial review of the problems experienced there in the March 15, 2016 General Primary.
I spoke with the County Clerk, her staff, and representatives of Robis (the electronic pollbook vendor) and GBS (the voting system vendor).
In addition to the typical sorts of issues one sees in every election in every jurisdiction, McHenry County experienced a couple of problems of note, which should be addressed for future elections.
Neither of these issues impacted the ballot tabulation operations, and we have not found anything that calls into question the accuracy of the vote totals processed and reported. [FN1]
The issues may, however, have resulted in some eligible or potentially eligible voters not casting ballots.
One of the issues relates to the electronic pollbooks, which were implemented countywide for the first time at the General Primary (following a successful pilot program test conducted in limited precincts in 2015).
The electronic pollbooks are used to process the voters coming through the polling place, and to handle the grace period registrations and transfers in the polling place.[FN 2]
Each precinct had 3 electronic pollbooks.
Preparation of the electronic pollbooks requires the installation of a copy of the county’s voter database file, and ideally that needs to be as near to Election Day as is reasonably practicable.
It appears that one or more of the memory sticks used for that purpose had a defective file that was not discovered prior to sending the electronic pollbooks to the polling places.
This caused some delays getting some of the polling places up and operational at the start of the day on election day and slowed the functions of precincts operating without a full complement of 3 electronic pollbooks (technicians had to be sent to the polling places to install a functional version of the file).
In future elections, each pollbook should be individually tested to make sure it will be operational on Election Day and the election judge training should include some additional emphasis on how to process registered voters from printed voter lists to avoid delays in the event of any future problem with electronic pollbook function.
The other significant issue is the communication problem experienced by the election judges and general public when trying to contact the county clerk’s office.
There was a special hotline number for the judges of election and a separate one for the public.
The county clerk’s general number was not forwarded to the public hotline number, and early callers to the general number got the standard non-business hours recording directing them to call back during regular business hours.
All of the state’s election authorities, as well as the State Board of Elections, experienced a much higher than normal call volume on Election Day (much of that relating to Election Day registration).
The call problem in McHenry County was exacerbated by having to pull staff from other duties to help deal with the electronic pollbook issue, leaving fewer staff to handle calls.
In future elections, better staffing of the phones will be needed, and provision will need to be made to ensure that calls to the general telephone number will handled outside of the office’s normal business hours.
= = = = =
FN 1. I obtained a full precinct by precinct vote tabulation report at the time of my visit, and Mr. Fulle spent considerable time reviewing it. The report did not have all of the provisional ballots or late arriving vote by mail ballot figures, but the problems experienced on Election Day should not have impacted the processing of those ballots.
FN 2. The electronic pollbooks are not connected to the voting system, and do not impact ballot tabulation.