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Election Snag: Ballots Won’t Fit Into Vote-Counting Machines

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Updated 03/20/12 – 8:32 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — An Election Day snag across Illinois is creating problems at the polls, where judges have found that ballots won’t fit into counting machines.

The issue centers on the fact that some of the ballots are too big, CBS 2 investigator Pam Zekman reports. The Illinois State Board of Elections said the problem affected at least 25 of the state’s 102 counties.

Judges are being told to cut the ballots by hand, so that they can fit into the machines, Zekman reported. Some ballots will be shipped to county clerk offices where they will be cut and counted. All counties in Illinois, except Vermillion, have an option to ask voters to cast their ballots by touch screen.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

WMBD-TV in Peoria shot video of judges cutting ballots to make them fit.

In Rockford, voters and election judges were surprised to see ballots being rejected by the tabulator machines, because the ballots were cut too wide – by just 1/16th of an inch.

Ballots were also rejected at polling places in Moline because they didn’t fit. One solution was having voters use touchscreen voting booths instead, though many polling places have only one touchscreen machine.

Kenneth R. Menzel, with the Illinois State Board of Elections said, “It’s not a uniform problem all the way across. It varies from county to county, and of course not all of the ballots, even in an affected precinct, were impacted by the problem.”

At some locations, judges trimmed the corner of the ballots until they fit in the ballot box. At others, ballots were placed in an alternative bin, to be cut down or counted by hand at the end of the day at a centralized election facility.

“All of the votes will be able to be counted,” Menzel said. “Our numbers just may come in a little bit slower than they normally would.”

In DuPage County, 23 of 360 locations had the wrong-sized ballots

The company that supplied the ballots is GBS (Governmental Business Systems) Vote, which is based in Lisle. GBS Vote is not the only company that supplied ballots, so state election officials are still trying to determine the overall impact.

GBS President Larry Mandel said a third-party printer improperly cut some of the ballots at the very bottom right hand corner.

“There were some that there were a little wide down at the right hand corner, so they will unable to actually process the ballot,” Mandel said.

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