Ann Maher Nov. 7, 2014, 7:44am

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline) - Voters in the state’s Fifth Judicial District have spoken: Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier has been retained to a second 10-year term.

Ballots counted in the district’s 37 counties show that Karmeier surpassed the 60 percent minimum requirement needed for retention by 2,546 votes, with a retention rate, so far, of 60.68.

And, an analysis of uncounted provisional and outstanding absentee ballots remaining at the district’s 38 election authorities shows that it would be statistically impossible for Karmeier’s voter approval rate to dip below 60 percent unless an unlikely scenario were to occur:  Nearly every uncounted provisional vote is determined to be an eligible vote, nearly every outstanding absentee ballot is returned with a postmark of Nov. 3 or earlier and nearly 100 percent of those are “no” votes.

That would defy evidence of vote totals from all 1,385 precincts in the district.

Karmeier exceeded 60 percent in 17 of 37 counties – scoring 63.34 percent in the county with the second most votes (St. Clair County) and scoring 57.7 percent in the county with the most votes (Madison County).

The lowest approval percentage came from Gallatin County where voters were only 48 percent supportive of retaining Karmeier. In his home of Washington County, he received the greatest percentage of votes, 82 percent.

Information gathered from the most populous counties in the district (Madison and St. Clair counties) indicate that very few outstanding absentee ballots – ballots that are not returned in time to be counted on election day – are coming into election authorities post-election to make a dent in the voter approval rate.

And, each day after election day, the likelihood of receiving ballots with a postmark of Nov. 3 or earlier decreases.

In Madison County, there are a total of 725 outstanding absentee ballots. On Wednesday, no absentee ballots were received at the elections office.

In St. Clair County, there are an undetermined number of outstanding ballots. On Wednesday, a total of 97 ballots were received and 26 of those were rejected. On Thursday, approximately 30 were received, however, there had been no determination at the time this information was gathered whether any of those would be accepted.

At the East St. Louis Board of Elections, the number of outstanding ballots is 547. On Wednesday, 38 absentee ballots came in, and on Thursday, two absentee ballots came in. Of those 40, just one was accepted.

However, the number of provisional ballots in East St. Louis is not yet known. Commissioner Kandrice Mosby said the figure would be available Friday morning.

East St. Louis is one of six municipalities in the state to manage elections independently from the County Clerk. Approximately 20,000 people are registered to vote. There are 25 precincts. By election day, less than 7,000 people voted. East St. Louis typically votes 95 percent Democrat. Karmeier, who is a Republican, won East St. Louis with a margin of 62.21 percent. Retention elections are non-partisan.

The total number of uncounted provisional ballots within the district, except for figures unknown in East St. Louis and Jackson and Lawrence counties, is 1,524.

Jackson County voters approved Karmeier’s retention by 61 percent with a total of 12,753 votes cast. Lawrence County voted 52 percent in favor of retaining Karmeier with a total of 3,766 votes cast.

Provisional voting was created to allow a person whose eligibility has been questioned to vote on election day. The votes are held separately and counted after election day if the authority determines the voter is eligible. Provisional voting applies in seven circumstances, according to the State Board of Elections:

- Election judges have no record of the individual;

- A voter’s voting status has been successfully challenged;

- A voter did not provide identification when registering by mail;

- A court order extends the time for closing the polls;

- The voter’s name appears on the list of voters who voted during the early voting period; but the voter claims not to have voted during the early voting period;

- The voter received an absentee ballot but did not return the absentee ballot to the election authority; or

- The voter registered to vote during the grace period on the day before the election or on election day

Provisional voters have seven days to provide documentation proving their eligibility and the election authority has 14 days from the election to determine if the provisional vote is eligible.

There are 2,557 known outstanding absentee ballots within the district. Figures from seven counties – Alexander, Bond, Clay, Clinton, Jackson, Pulaski and St. Clair were not available. There are also 35 absentee ballots that have not been counted in Wayne County and five absentee ballots that have not been counted in White County.

Even if every provisional and outstanding absentee ballot known to exist were determined by election authorities to be eligible and all 4,121 of them voted 100 percent against Karmeier’s retention, there would not be enough “no” votes to bring the voter approval rate below 60 percent.

With currently available data, there would have to be 4,243 no votes for Karmeier not to be retained.

Karmeier’s campaign manager Ron Deedrick expressed confidence in the results.

“Justice Karmeier has been retained and he is thankful for the voters of the Fifth Judicial District for sending him back to Springfield to be their southern Illinois voice at the state Supreme Court,” Deedrick said. “The numbers are close, but the 60 percent threshold has been achieved and we are cautiously optimistic that the numbers may continue to edge up.”

Karmeier had been subjected to a last minute $2 million negative campaign attack sponsored by class action attorneys who were on the losing end of decisions that were overturned in 2005.

Karmeier, who was first elected in 2004 in the most costly state supreme court contest ever recorded in the country, participated in decisions at the Illinois Supreme Court that reversed judgments of $10.1 billion in Price v. Philip Morris and $1.1 billion in Avery v. State Farm.

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