Durand resident puzzled by election ballot formatting error

Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) - The Winnebago county clerk’s office verifies the primary election results a week after an error on the ballot, but one voter worries about a repeat in November election.

A formatting issue on the referendum questions at the bottom of the primary ballot creates inaccurate votes. The only referendum whose outcome changed from the verified results was a tax levy in Durand, which asked residents:

Shall the Village of Durand be authorized to levy a new tax for the purpose of covering the Village’s Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund employer contribution & have an additional tax of 0.2318% of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property?

Durand resident Peggy Balentyne called the Winnebago County Clerk’s Office when she noticed a small number of votes against the tax levy in Durand on the June 28th primary ballot.

“I was a little shocked that there were only 14 ‘No’s’. I had talked to you know, several people and they were like, there’s no way this is not a good time,” says Balentyne.

A high-speed tabulator with updated software counted more than 20,000 ballots to verify the results. The clerk’s office found the tax levy didn’t pass after initial results showed it did pass. The reason for the inaccuracy: a small typing error on the ballots themselves almost unnoticeable to the naked eye.

“Makes you wonder every time you vote if it’s not being counted correctly. But I’m thankful because I can’t afford my taxes to go up,” says Balentyne.

“We try to ensure the voter that everything is accurate and their votes are being counted. And that’s why we have these two weeks to look through all that information and make sure everything’s being tabulated correctly,” says Winnebago County Clerk Lori Gummow.

Gummow says the office meets with the election judges after ballots are cast and problem solves for the next election. Balentyne says having state-of-the-art equipment should mean little to no problems.

“This is very concerning. What if no one calls you to know, we would have just gone with this vote and our taxes would have increased. We are depending on these machines,” says Balentyne.

Durand Village President Sheila Hoffman says she was surprised the referendum initially passed by a large margin and disheartened when she found out it won’t be an option moving forward.

If passed, the referendum would help the village in several areas, including hiring a 2nd full-time police officer and a full-time public works employee.

Primary results, including the candidates, are unofficial until the clerk’s office factors in the mail-in votes.

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