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Updated 3/21/2012 12:11 a.m.

As midnight approached, Emanuel Chris Welch had a three vote lead over Rory Hoskins in the hotly contested 7th District race.  More confusion and complexity lies ahead as election officials try to tease out the electronic ballots still locked up in the results from two precincts.

Final election results could not be tallied because two precincts out of 87 had data-pack transfer jams. The two jammed machines were in precincts at the heart of both campaigns. One was at Grant-White School in Forest Park (Proviso 65) and the other was in Westchester, at St. Joseph’s High School (81) home turf of Welch’s Field Supervisor Angelo Calcagno.

“This race is too close to call,” Welch told supporters at 10 p.m. on Election Night at his victory party at Luis and Luigi’s, 5245 St. Charles Rd. in Berkeley. “But we’re going to fight this every step of the way.”

The Cook County Clerk’s office allowed two representatives from each campaign to go to the Board of Elections Hawthorn Distribution Center at 4545 W. Cermak Rd. to observe the re-counting of votes from the two uncounted precincts.

Hoskins went himself with campaign worker Terrance Jones from Maywood and Welch sent two campaign workers: fellow District 209 School Board Member Brian Cross, and volunteer Mike DeBartlo.

The two camps were seated at a folding table outside a wire mesh room filled with computers and ballot machines.

Counting paper ballots only, the St. Joseph precinct split Hoskins 26, Welch 21 and Grant -White split Hoskins 47 to Welch 18. But those were not all the votes cast. That narrowed the difference to just three votes in favor of Welch.

Both camps were told they would not have results of electronically cast ballots from those two precincts until tomorrow.

Hoskins campaign manager Larry Shapiro told a crowd gathered at Jimmy’s Place on Madison Street in Forest Park earlier in the evening that the results may not be known for weeks. “We still have to count the military and provisional ballots.” Shapiro said he had worked on the campaign in the state rep race between Deborah Graham and Dorothy Reed in 2002 which was decided, after several weeks, by a coin toss.

As he left the Clerk’s counting center, Hoskins was cautiously optimistic. “We came up on both precincts. We got more votes in each precinct,” he said.

Beyonca Johnson had 1,590 votes, or 13 percent and Princess Dempsey had 991 votes, or 8.91 percent.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...