Bumbling Chicago election officials ‘find’ 10,000 missing ballots in Democratic primary race for DA – with just 2,000 votes separating the candidates

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • The Chicago Board of Elections has admitted it made an error in tabulating Democratic primary results for Cook County state’s attorney 
  • An additional 10,000 votes that were initially excluded have been added to the totals – Eileen O’Neill Burke leads Clayton Harris III by 2,015 votes 
  • The outcome of the closely contested race in a Democratic stronghold will shape the prosecutorial landscape for the nation’s second-largest prosecutor’s office

The Chicago Board of Elections says it made a mistake when tabulating the results for the Democratic primary race for Cook County state’s attorney.

The race to lead the nation’s second-largest prosecutor’s office could not be tighter with just 2,000 votes separating the candidates after a heated primary campaign.

At last count, Eileen O’Neill Burke is leading Clayton Harris III by 2,015 votes. O’Neill Burke has 259,445 votes while Harris has 257,430 votes.

The election board is now looking to add an additional 10,000 votes to the total counts after some vote-by-mail ballots were ‘mistakenly left out’.

Clayton Harris III is currently in second place

Eileen O’Neill Burke, a former appellate judge currently leads Clayton Harris III by 2,015 votes

The Chicago Board of Elections has admitted it made an error in tabulating Democratic primary results for Cook County state's attorney

The Chicago Board of Elections has admitted it made an error in tabulating Democratic primary results for Cook County state’s attorney

‘I traded speed for accuracy in reporting out numbers this week as quickly as I could,’ Chicago Board of Elections Public Information Officer Max Bever said in a statement.

‘I truly regret this error on my part and for the confusion that it has caused the voters of Chicago. I will share updated numbers only when they are accurate and verified.

‘There will be additional results coming in, both large and small, through the next week.

‘We continue to ask for voters’ patience as the process plays out, and by law all the votes are counted.’ 

The vote-by-mail ballots were delivered on Monday, March 18. It is not clear why they were not included during the original count. 

Harris has slowly narrowed the gap on Burke, as election officials in Chicago and suburban Cook County counted ballots. 

Bever continued: ‘I made an error that should have been included in the ‘received by Election Day’ numbers.

O’Neill Burke is a former appellate judge with a large campaign war chest, while Harris is a professor and attorney who has held government posts. 

Neither candidate has conceded or declared victory, nor has the Associated Press called the race. 

The winner of the primary in the Democratic stronghold is expected to win outright in November.

Clayton Harris III is an attorney with union and establishment backing

Clayton Harris III is an attorney with union and establishment backing

Eileen O'Neill Burke,  a former appellate tough-on-crime judge, is leading by a slim margin

Eileen O’Neill Burke,  a former appellate tough-on-crime judge, is leading by a slim margin

‘We are cautiously optimistic, but we have to make sure all the votes are counted,’ O’Neill Burke told supporters.

Harris, meanwhile, has asked his supporters for patience, saying all parts of the county matter: ‘So, we’re going to wait and we’re going to count the votes.’

The race is open because Cook County State´s Attorney Kim Foxx didn’t seek a third term. 

She was among several progressive prosecutors elected in the past decade in major U.S. cities including Los Angeles and Philadelphia. 

Many have been criticized as being soft on crime, but in Chicago, both Democratic candidates have been more careful of their critique of Foxx, saying that they’ll continue her approach on some issues.

Harris says penalties for crimes should take racial disparities and communities into account. 

He often talks about his personal experiences as a black man raising children in Washington Park, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. 

He says the office needs to beef up its special prosecutions unit and improve communication with police.

‘We hear gunshots sometimes, and nobody wants to live like that,’ he said. ‘I understand how safety and justice affect our communities.’

When it comes to fundraising, O'Neill Burke is ahead with roughly double the amount of Harris

When it comes to fundraising, O’Neill Burke is ahead with roughly double the amount of Harris

Harriss III managed to raise $750,000 and has picked up hefty endorsements from labor unions, progressive leaders and the Cook County Democratic Party

Harriss III managed to raise $750,000 and has picked up hefty endorsements from labor unions, progressive leaders and the Cook County Democratic Party

O’Neill Burke says harsher punishments should be in place, particularly for those who contribute to the flow of illegal guns.

‘Our justice system is not working right now, but I don´t think anyone living in Chicago right now would disagree,’ she said.

She’s called for more attorney training and a unit to protect abortion rights, while continuing Foxx’s restorative justice efforts. 

Harris has said he’ll continue Foxx’s controversial policy not to prosecute retail theft as a felony unless the value of the stolen goods is over $1,000. State law sets a $300 felony threshold.

When it comes to fundraising, O’Neill Burke is ahead with roughly double the amount of Harris, just under $2 million compared to roughly $750,000. Her sum includes money from top Republican donors.

But Harris has picked up hefty endorsements from labor unions, progressive leaders and the Cook County Democratic Party.

The state’s attorney’s office has more than 700 attorneys and is the country’s largest after Los Angeles.

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