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Illinois’ 2020 primary leaves hundreds of thousands of ballots still to be counted in Chicago alone

The large number of uncounted ballots could affect the 3rd Congressional District race, where Marie Newman declared victory over incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, even though they were separated by about 2,100 votes.

An election judge speaks with a voter at the Lincoln Lodge polling place on March 17, 2020.
An election judge speaks with a voter at the Lincoln Lodge polling place on March 17, 2020.
James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Chicagoans braced for the threat of coronavirus and plenty of mishaps at polling places to vote in the 2020 primary election — an election with at least two tight races that could be affected by what could be more than a quarter of a million ballots yet to be counted.

Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen late Tuesday said 200,000 early voting ballots had yet to be counted, and a “potential universe” of another 70,000 mail-in ballots could arrive to be counted in the next two weeks.

“We’re going to be counting for another two weeks, easily,” Allen said.

Allen explained that the city’s election board normally shuts down early voting the Monday before Election Day. It gathers all the memory chips from machines to be able to report out all early voting data, like “one big happy family of data.”

“This time we had early voting open on Election Day and serving as precinct [polling places], so now those precincts are coming in with all early voting data, going back to Feb. 19th,” Allen said. “That’s 200,212 ballots.”

The mail-in ballot conundrum is one the city has never seen. Chicago voters — with most of the city working from home — had to postmark their ballots by Tuesday in order to have their votes counted.

The large number of uncounted ballots could affect the 3rd Congressional District race, where Marie Newman declared victory over incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, even though they were separated by about 2,100 votes. That district includes some Chicago precincts. Lipinski refused to concede.

It could also impact the race for the seat once held by the late Illinois Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Freeman.

Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville led Appellate Court Justice Jesse Reyes by about 27,000 votes in a race where voters split their ballot among seven candidates.