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Election ‘like clockwork’ with 70 percent of county voting

AthenTserkezis 5 WisconsDells yawns as she waits for her aunt ChristinIliadis Gurnee vote Viking Park Dance Hall Gurnee. | Thomas

Athena Tserkezis, 5, of Wisconsin Dells yawns as she waits for her aunt Christina Iliadis of Gurnee to vote at the Viking Park Dance Hall in Gurnee. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 6, 2013 10:12AM

WAUKEGAN — When 7 p.m. arrived in the Lake County Clerk’s Office, there was no dramatic sounding of a buzzer or clanging of a bell — just the sound of phones ringing, as voters still needed questions answered despite the polls having closed.

Within 15 minutes, election workers started to arrive with bins of material from precincts, and within an hour, returns from more than 80 percent of the county’s 415 precincts had been counted. Clerk Willard Helander said to that point, it had been “a very smooth day” — with one notable exception she witnessed firsthand with poll-watchers in Waukegan.

“They’re there to be advocates, and they thought they were advocates not only for a candidate or perspective, but also for voters. But they were not informed” about laws regarding applications for ballots, Helander said. “They got so aggressive that you couldn’t get them to listen, and that causes voters to say, ‘I’m ticked.’ And I said, ‘Do you realize these people may leave while you stand here and scream?’”

But otherwise, Helander said, “I was very impressed. I went to places in Mundelein, Gurnee, Waukegan, Lake Forest and it was really like clockwork until I ran into the aggressive-lawyer thing.”

In the end, around 9:15 p.m., unofficial returns showed Lake County’s turnout at 70.3 percent, or of 285,896 of 406,567 registered, down from 301,077 and 74.3 percent in 2008. The evening’s returns were aided by early-voting totals that equaled nearly a quarter of the county’s registered voters. According to Helander, at the close of a 12-day early-voting cycle that began Oct. 22, a total of 100,269 ballots had been received.

Helander added that this number included 77,764 voters who cast early ballots in person — compared to 83,828 in 2008 — at either the Lake County Courthouse or 19 other sites in township offices and other public buildings across the county.

“The last day was our busiest day — we had served in the county 9,107 voters,” said Helander, noting that the top two sites on Saturday were the Lake County Central Permitting Facility in Libertyville with 755 ballots cast and the Vernon Township Office with 707.

The overall 2012 total included ballots cast nursing homes and jails, along with absentee ballots received from citizens overseas or serving in the military. As of Monday morning, 15 vote-by-mail ballots had been returned as undeliverable, and 17 challenged by a Democratic or Republican judge and pending a response from the voter.

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