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Election Board fixing 'Whitey' spelling error

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Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney speaks with reporters while at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Wednesday.

An embarrassed Chicago Election Board will spend the money and time to re-program and re-test 4,200 electronic voting machines to correct a spelling error that changed the last name of Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney to "Whitey."

If the mistake had been anything other than "Whitey" in a city with a history of racial politics, the costly correction might not have been necessary, officials said.

But, since the error was made on machines scheduled to be delivered to nearly two dozen Chicago wards, half of them predominantly African-American, there was no choice but to spend the tens of thousands of dollars needed to make the change.

Delivery of 4,200 electronic voting machines originally scheduled for Monday will now be pushed back until Wednesday. After that, the same fix will be made on roughly 500 machines used in early voting.

"It certainly makes it more embarrassing," Election Board Chairman Langdon Neal said Thursday of the "Whitey" mistake.

"This was Â… not the kind of error that we would tolerate at the Chicago Board of Elections. ... We are very, very sorry and apologize, and we're embarrassed."

Neal called it a "proof-reading mistake" and blamed it on Dominion, a private contractor. The board will "assess responsibility" for the costs after the fix is made, requiring "more trucks and longer hours," probably through the weekend, the chairman said.

Whitney said he "appreciates the sincerity" of the board's efforts. But, he's not yet willing to rule out the possibility that the "mistake" might have been deliberate.

"The investigation has to continue until we get all the facts on the table," Whitney said.

"It either has to be some sort of gross negligence or there was an intentional act. We deserve an explanation as to why, in a race as important as this, someone couldn't have proof-read the ballot."

Green Party officials who confronted Neal during Thursday's news conference said the "mistake" is compounded by Whitney's exclusion from gubernatorial debates.

But, Neal advised conspiracy theorists to give it a rest.

"No one at the Chicago Board of Elections or a vendor would ever do anything to in any way negatively effect the integrity of the election, the integrity of this office or in any way influence any one candidate's success," he said.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported the "Whitey" mistake Thursday. Whitney's name is spelled correctly on the machines' initial screens showing all of the candidates names. It is misspelled, only on review screens that give voters a last chance to review their choices.