Countryman reviews election

By Mike Solley

A contested State Representative election, decided by only four votes, is being reviewed by the House Committee on Elections, which includes newly appointed member John Countryman, R-DeKalb.

There seems to have been a problem with the “conduct of the election” for State Representative of the 85th district, Countryman said. Voters in the 85th district, which includes Kankakee and Will Counties, 60 miles south of Chicago, chose Jerry Weller, R-Morris, by four votes out of 28,430 to succeed ten-year incumbent Ray Christensen, D-Morris.

Christensen asked for a partial recount of the votes in late December, Countryman said. Weller, who was sworn in as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives Jan. 14, asked for a full recount earlier this month, although the nature of the recount is undecided. “If we go to a full recount, we (the committee) must examine the ballots and make a determination,” he said.

Irregularities were uncovered in some of the precincts leading to a request for an investigation by the committee, Countryman said. In one precinct, the names “Pangle” and “Henderson” appeared on the ballot instead of Weller and Christensen, he said.

Another problem was the use of voting machines in some precincts, Countryman said. “The names of the candidates were switched on some of the ballots, so some voters may have pushed the wrong numbered button,” he said. As a result, some might have voted for the wrong candidate, Countryman said.

Countryman is one of four Republicans appointed to the committee by House Minority Leader Lee Daniels, R-Elmhurst. He was chosen because of his “expertise in election law,” Daniels said. Countryman has served on the Illinois State Board of Elections for five years and was chairman from 1979-1981.

“According to the state constitution, election disputes are decided in the chamber in which cases they occur,” Countryman said. The task of the committee, to determine the proceedings to be used in reviewing the contested election, is “a diffcult one,” he said.

“Any review or recount of the 85th District race must be fair and represent the people’s wishes,” Countryman said.

Mike Lang, spokesman for Daniels, said Daniels hoped the committee would “be thorough and not rush to conclusions.”

“The responsibilities involved with (my) appointment to this committee are very important,” Countryman added. “This is a prestige appointment in my judgement,” he said.