For all the high tech equipment designed to streamline Illinois’ voting process, election officials were forced to improvise — even turning to hair dryers — when scanning machines started spitting out ballots during Tuesday’s primary elections. “There is some irony that … it was scissors and blow dryers that came to the rescue,” said Pete Duncan, the Macoupin County clerk whose workers encountered thousands of faulty ballots. And rescue they did, according to state election officials who said they have no reports of ballots being lost despite problems with thousands of ballots in about 25 of the state’s 102 counties. “The important thing is that nobody was disenfranchised,” said Rupert Borgsmiller, of the Illinois State Board of Elections. “People who voted, it might take a little longer than it normally does, but their votes are being counted.”
In some cases, ballots went through the scanning machines only after workers trimmed them with scissors or blew them dry. In other cases, election workers took faulty ballots and copied the information onto new ballots as Republican and Democrat election judges looked on. “Nothing ever stopped,” said Dan Curry, a spokesman for DuPage County’s election commission.
There also is a feeling that elections officials got lucky because the problems happened when they did. “I wouldn’t say we’re happy about it, but it would have been a whole lot worse in a general election,” said McDonough County Clerk Gretchen DeJaynes, whose staff used hair dryers on some moist ballots.
“We had 27 percent turnout,” she said. “In November, in a presidential year, we will have over 60 percent.”