WODSTOCK, Ill. (CBS) — The western suburbs are home to one of the tightest congressional races in the U.S.

Incumbent Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Illinois) leads Republican opponent Jim Oberweis by a few thousand votes in the 14th District. On Wednesday, CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas took us behind the scenes in McHenry County, where votes were still coming in.

The voter tabulation room at McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio’s offices is a finish line of sorts. It is the room where ballots are finally added to the tally.

“It’s a tight race It’s an important race,” Tirio said, “and every vote counts and needs to be counted.”

But before any McHenry County ballot reaches the goal line, election judges check that the signature on the envelope matches the registration signature.

Ballots are then removed from the envelope and organized for the final count. Keeping an eye on those judges the whole way are poll watchers, such as Margaret Rulius with the McHenry County Democratic Party.

“It’s for both parties to keep everybody honest,” Rulius said.

Rulius said she asks to make sure there are Democratic and Republican judges working and keeps an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

“Mostly it’s just being in the room,” she said. “You know somebody watching always keeps people from trying to do something that they shouldn’t be doing.”

As for the congressional race, Tirio said he has welcomed poll watchers from both campaigns. And both campaigns told us they haven’t seen anything unusual or unfair.

When asked if his office had detected a single instance of fraud in the election anywhere, Tirio replied, “We haven’t.”

There are some bipartisan poll watchers, but most report back to a political organization or campaign.

Speaking of campaigns, Tirio said they’ve been calling him.

“Most of them want a prognostication,” Tirio said. But as to how he thinks it might go, he said, “To that I really can’t tell.”

He can’t tell because there are still thousands of unreturned ballots that could be in the mail right now. Some might have decided not to vote at all.

“If there’s one thing that 2020 taught us, it’s that it’s unpredictable,” Tirio said.

Ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 will be counted if they are received by Nov. 17. Trio says the new mail-in ballots arriving have become fewer since the election. On Monday, for example, they only received about a dozen new ballots.

McHenry and the other six counties where the 14th District sits should have a final count by Nov. 17 or 18.

Tirio says it is more secure and efficient to tally the ballots in larger batches, so Nov. 10th was the first time McHenry County added to their tally since Election Night. They plan to count the remaining ballots on Nov. 17 and announce the results on the 17th or 18th.

Depending on how tight the results are, the losing candidate could ask for a recount.

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Tim McNicholas