URBANA — The runner-up in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for a Champaign County judgeship said she intends to ask for a full recount of the paper ballots.
“With the vote count this close, I think either side should want that,” Urbana attorney Ruth Wyman said Wednesday, less than 24 hours after her apparent second-place finish to Ramona Sullivan.
Around 9:45 p.m., when returns posted on County Clerk Aaron Ammons’ website reported all 118 precincts had been counted, Sullivan was ahead by 148 votes.
On Wednesday, that site had slightly higher numbers for the four candidates, but Sullivan was still in front by 157 votes. Troy Lozar remained in third and David Moore in fourth place.
Neither Ammons nor his chief deputy, Angie Patton, returned calls to explain the differences.
Wyman said she had no explanation either.
“I think it’s important there are paper ballots,” she said.
Likewise, Lozar and Moore said they had no explanation for the different numbers. Sullivan did not return a message seeking comment.
“With less than 1 percent of the vote separating Ramona Sullivan and I in the Democratic primary, and more than 1,500 outstanding Democratic vote-by-mail ballots requested but not yet counted, we have nearly two weeks before all ballots have to be received by the county clerk’s office to be counted,” Wyman said. “I look forward to continuing to observe and be part of the democratic process and see that every vote is counted.”
Wyman said she and Sullivan spent part of Wednesday at the clerk’s office observing as mailed-in ballots were opened.
“I’ve been watching them feeding them into their machines. One of my interns is there now to observe vote-by-mail counting and make sure everything is kosher,” Wyman said. “We are just trying to make sure democracy works.”
Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said mail-in ballots had to be postmarked by March 17 in order to be counted but don’t have to be received by the clerk until the end of the month.
Wyman said she and her interns were told that 701 additional ballots arrived in the clerk’s mail Wednesday.
“Their procedure is that they open the envelope, check the signature with the voter file. If they appear to match, then they remove the envelope and put the ballot in to the vote-counting machine,” Wyman said. “They will not open up the machine again until <saxo:ch value=”226 128 168”/>March 31, when the last ballots have been fed in.”
That’s also the date when the machine will give its results.
Patton told The News-Gazette she would check the records to see how many voters requested ballots by mail but had yet to supply that information.
Earlier, she said that as of the end of Monday, 2,064 mail-in ballots had been received by the clerk’s office and another 13,235 people had voted early at polling places, representing almost half of the people who voted in the primary.
Wyman said there could be innocent explanations for the differences in numbers, but she wants to hear them.
“I don’t want to sound paranoid. You have to have a basic amount of trust, but you have to be able to verify as well,” she said. “I can only imagine the enormous cost for that. I don’t have independent wealth, but that’s what credit cards are for.”