School Referendum Supporters Get A Chance To Celebrate Early

Supporters of the Quincy School District’s $89 million bond issue were able to start their victory celebration early Tuesday night — even before the final votes were tallied at the county clerk’s office in the Adams County Courthouse.

This is because the supporters got some early insight into how enormously successful the vote was turning out — thanks to some extra legwork, good organization and a provision in the Illinois election code.

The election law spells out several things election judges must do after shutting down polling places where optical scan ballot-counting machines are used.

According to Adams County Clerk Georgia Volm, once the polls close at 7 p.m., election officials must use the optical scanners to print out several “results tapes,” which resemble long cash-register receipts.

The tapes show the vote count for every race and ballot issue logged that day by the scanners, which read ballots fed into them by voters from multiple precincts.

“Those results tapes are kind of important,” Volm said.

One tape, for example, must be brought back to the courthouse with the optical scanner so county officials can ensure the numbers reported on the tape match the machine’s memory card, which is used to help tally the election results that get reported on the county’s website.

On top of that, Volm said, the election judges are required to attach a copy of the tape to the polling place’s door as they walk out.

Knowing this, the school supporters stationed volunteers outside every polling place where Quincy School District votes were cast on Tuesday — approximately 13 in all.

Once the results tapes were posted for all the world to see, the volunteers made note of the yes and no votes for the Quincy bond issue. Then they telephoned the results to Brandy Blickhan, who was waiting at a computer in the Town & Country Inn and Suites ballroom, where supporters were gathering for a post-election party.

Blickhan entered the results into a spreadsheet, thereby producing a running total that was frequently updated.

Blickhan said the first results were called in at 7:05 p.m. — just five minutes after the polling places closed and well before election judges began arriving at the courthouse with the “official” votes in hand.

Armed with their unofficial data, the school supporters were able to announce just after 8 p.m. that the referendum was passing by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent and that it had passed in every precinct.

Those preliminary results, however, did not take into account the 2,766 “early votes” still to be reported by the county clerk’s office. With those numbers added in, the clerk’s office released the final results at 8:47 p.m. showing the bond issue passed 11,001 (66.2 percent) to 5,620 (33.8 percent).

Volm said results tapes have been posted on polling place doors ever since she introduced optical scanners into Adams County’s elections nearly 12 years ago. She said the organized reporting of votes by groups “hasn’t been a super-widespread practice” over the years.

“They have every right to do that,” she said. “But this is probably the biggest practice of it that I’ve seen.”

Years ago — before the onset of optical scans — election enthusiasts would gather at the courthouse on election night and simply wait for results to be posted on a wall for all to see. Now those folks just stay home and get the results online.

John Frankenhoff, the county’s information technology guru, said he couldn’t provide any statistics on how many hits the county’s website got on election night, but he knows it’s a lot.

“It’s more interesting for the people sitting at home” he said. “They can get the results a lot quicker.”

But not as quick as some folks.

ehusar@whig.com/221-3378