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The Cook County Clerk's Office said it will still use its normal procedures to process early and absentee voting for the upcoming election after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently released an opinion about vote counting.
Madigan's statement, issued Oct. 15, said that ballots collected through early voting and absentee balloting cannot be counted before election polls close at 7 p.m. Nov. 4.
Specifically, the opinion said that running the ballots through tabulating equipment is a form of counting.
Natalie Bauer, Illinois Attorney General communications director, said the decision was released to clarify election laws because of procedural questions some election officials had asked.
Cook County Clerk spokesperson Courtney Greve said the clerk's office believes its normal process of compiling early ballots complies with the law and Madigan's opinion.
With 50,000 applications for mail ballots, she said it would be a new record for the county if all of those ballots were submitted.
She said the office sorts the mail ballots it receives by precinct and township a couple of days before the election. The day of the eleciton, the ballots are scanned through machines that process and encrypt the data.
The process of scanning these ballot is open to public observation, the same way that vote counting is open on election night, Greve said. The data is not counted until it is entered into the tally system and consolidated with the rest of the voting data after polls have closed.
"Everything we're doing, running it through, is not calculating and computing," she said. "It is preparing to do so."
However, the Attorney General's Office has yet to make a decision on whether this process falls within its interpretation of the law.
Bauer said the office has received questions about the process and is "looking into matters right now to provide additional guidance."
One clarification released by the Attorney General's office regarding the opinion answered a question some election officials had about whether voters using electronic voting equipment qualified as counting.
According to the clarification, the equipment is legal because the opinion was not meant to address the act of casting a vote.