Election results in DuPage County could take a day longer than usual for the Election Commission to tabulate after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's recent opinion on the counting process.
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.
Joseph Sobecki, the DuPage commission's assistant executive director, said waiting until 7 p.m. on election day will definitely impede how quickly they can report results.
"Most likely it would be pushed back about a day," Sobecki said.
Sobecki explained that the absentee ballots are normally scanned into the tabulators during the day of the election. During presidential elections, the commission sometimes begins the process as early as the Friday before.
Although the ballots are scanned, no votes are tallied until the polls close at 7 p.m. Until then, the information is stored in the machine without any running total output.
As of Friday, Sobecki said the commission had received about 7,300 absentee ballots of the 16,750 people who applied for them. As long as the ballots are postmarked before election day, the commission will count them.
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.
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."
The Cook County Clerk's Office said it plans to compile early votes using its normal process, which it believes complies with the law and Madigan's opinion. DuPage officials, however, are still working with the Attorney General's Office before making a decision.
Sobecki expects if the Attorney General decides DuPage can't begin processing absentee ballots until 7 p.m. Nov. 4, the commission will need to bring in more people to scan ballots. He estimates about 3,000 ballots would need to be scanned through each of 35 machines.
"Either way the absentee ballots will be processed," Sobecki said.
According to a clarification released by the Attorney General's office on the opinion, the equipment used in early voting is legal because the opinion was not meant to address the act of casting a vote.
"The early votes are done on touch screens so it's not really affected by the opinion," Sobecki said.