Amped up accusations of a rigged election, promoted heavily by Donald Trump and his supporters, have left local election officials investigating complaints and offering reality checks. In one case, a voter reported he thought a tabulation machine shredded his paper ballot once it was inserted when he voted in the March primary. To ally concerns and to comply with the law, Bloomington Election Commission Director Paul Shannon publicly showed off how touch screens work and votes are tabulated.
Shannon did his presentation to an audience of one, a member from the McLean County League of Women Voters. Later in the day, McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael did the same and three members from the League showed up, including Carol Straka, Bloomington Council Member Diana Hauman and League Voter Services Co-Chair Phylis VerSteegh.
McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael had on display, machines from a variety of polling places, as well as paper ballots that are available for those who don't want to use touch screens. Election Representative Dana Clark explained how the touch screen machines ask users to confirm each vote. If there’s a problem, Michael says voters should immediately contact an election judge.
User Errors Happen
In some cases, operator error, caused by what Michael referred to as "fat finger syndrome", can cause an error in how a vote is recorded. If that happens, Michal says there are Republican and Democratic judges at each polling place and any one of them can correct the problem. "So if you say 'Hey, I was going to vote for Hillary and it shows Donald', you just look at your little paper on the right, on the spindle, it will show you how it registered." She added, "If indeed you're right, you haven't cast the ballot yet so the judges can cancel that out and we can fix it."
Illinois voters have always insisted on a paper ballot back-up and only after a voter sees that print-out, and confirms it, will their vote be inserted into machines that tabulate results. Michael says it's important voters really look at the paper print-out. "It's your responsibility to look before you cast your ballot." Voters who find an error can have the first round canceled and switch to another machine or paper ballot if they prefer that.
Election judges have already encountered at least one person at an Illinois State University polling place trying to vote for a second time. When they informed the student he already voted, he replied that he was just testing the system. Michael says it's a good thing it was caught before he voted. "He would have committed a felony which would have turned up after the election during the reports we are mandated to conduct and submit to the state."
State election law requires election commissions re-tabulate votes cast at 10 percent of precincts and five percent of those cast during early voting. The precincts are randomly chosen and sent to election officials the day after the election.