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The Election Was Tuesday, But Counting Ballots May Take A While

Election voting sign

URBANA – Tuesday was Election Day in Illinois, consolidating local elections for cities, village, townships and other governing bodies such as park, school and library boards. And on Tuesday evening, county clerks and other election authorities announced results of the voting.  But those are unofficial results, and the Champaign County Clerk’s office that it’s more important than ever to wait for a final count.

An Election Day news release from Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons made that point clear.

“Due to outstanding vote by mail ballots, we strongly encourage media to refrain from calling any races tonight,” said the release. “Contested local races can be determined by a few votes.”

County Clerk Aaron Ammons says the reason for the caution is the growth of mail-in voting.

“The only reason I think I and other clerks are now urging the media not to call races, is because there’s so many more vote-by-mail ballots than what it used to be,” said Ammons.

The increase in mail-in balloting also means an increase in the number of those ballots that aren’t received by election authorities until after Election Day. Under state law, those ballots are still legitimate, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day, and received before the close of the two-week window between Election Day and the official certification of election results.

Ammons says ballots arriving after Election Day were of little significance a few years ago, when the number of mail-in ballots was smaller. But he says that’s changing, as voting by mail gains in popularity.

“If I have 2,100 vote by mail ballots still left out, in a race where a candidate is leading by 350 votes, well you can’t call that race, because it could easily change, with the outstanding vote by mail ballots,” said Ammons.

Champaign County election officials said on Wednesday morning that there were nearly 2,000 outstanding mail-in ballots that had been requested by voters but not yet returned. Some or most of those ballots might never be returned, or would be postmarked too late, or be received too late to be accepted. Still, Ammons says his office is waiting to see how many ballots arrive over the next few days.

Write-In Ballots Reviewed

In addition, Ammons’ office scheduled special sessions this week for the public review of write-in ballots in three sensitive races.

One session was held Wednesday to review ballots in Champaign City Council District 3, where write-in candidate Justin Michael Hendrix competed against two balloted candidates.

On Thursday, write-in ballots will be reviewed in Thomasboro elections at 10 AM and Rantoul elections at 1 PM.  The sessions are open to poll watchers, and will be held at the county clerk’s office in the Champaign County  Brooken Centers

In Thomasboro, write-in candidates included village president challenger Cale Coffen, who challenged incumbent W. Tyler Evans, and trustee candidates Sen Purvines and Jeff Robinson, who ran against two candidates on the ballot for three available seats.

In Rantoul, write-in candidate Holden Yates competed for a village board seat against two candidates on the ballot in District 3; and write-in candidate Stephanie Burnett ran against three balloted candidates for seats on the Rantoul Township High School board. That race was uncontested, with the four candidates running for four available seats.

Ammons says that in all, there were more than a dozen write-in candidates who filed to run in the April 6 consolidated election in Champaign County. That includes every candidates running for village offices in Pesotum. They filed as writing-in candidates, after missing the deadline for applying for ballot access.

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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