Editor's Note: BREAKING NEWS: On September 27th, (after this article was written) a federal judge ruled to block Election Day in-precinct voter registration in Illinois. This will impact so many aspects of the November election. More information to follow.
Will the election in Illinois matter on a national scale? According to a poll released last week by Emerson College for the Presidential race, Illinois is within 6 points in the Trump vs Clinton race, while Senator Mark Kirk is suddenly polling 1 point behind Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth.
Based on the last few General elections, many have doubted that the election in Illinois will be competitive. Defend the Vote has predicted that the November 2016 election will have unique challenges because of new laws and voting equipment, and that many races in this election will be close. The vote in Illinois is very important in the national election. Illinois is considered an important state in the battle to control the majority in the Senate, which could impact who is appointed to the US Supreme Court.
Across Illinois, from the perspective of ballot security, 2016 is a pivotal election cycle because of major changes in election procedures. Voter fraud and mishaps in ballot security are more likely to occur when there are new procedures or new voting system equipment. In this case, in-precinct voter registration on Election Day has brought major changes in voting procedures and has resulted in the addition of electronic poll books across Illinois.
This is the first General Election where we will have Election Day in-precinct voter registration. Are the election authorities ready? Some are, some are not. Election jurisdictions like Chicago are actively encouraging voters to register in advance of the November election because of concerns that they cannot manage a large influx of new voters registering in-precinct on Election Day.
To protect the vote, Illinois requires at least bi-partisan oversight over the voting process. Bi-partisan oversight over each step of the voting process is a significant deterrent to retail voter fraud. Generally, Judges of Elections are appointed based on their party affiliation to oversee all aspects of the voting process. Up until about 60 days before the election, each party can appoint their own judges. Prior to a recent change in the law, this was done by both the county chairman and the ward committeeman. The chairman had the final authority.
A 2016 change in Illinois election law was specifically made to frustrate the GOP's efforts to appoint voting Republican election judges in the inner city wards. This change in the law took the authority from the County Chairman to appoint election judges and placed it in the hands of the ward committeeman. This change only impacts Cook County. This is especially problematic in Chicago because in the inner city, many of the Republican ward committeeman were actually Democrats.
By law, every ward is allowed to have one Republican and Democrat committeeman. In 2016, there are 19 city wards without Republican Committeeman. Most of these vacancies occurred after former GOP Cook County Chairman Aaron Del Mar refused to seat 13 Republican committeemen that had pulled a Democratic ballot in a recent primary. A federal lawsuit ensued. This case was only resolved last week. Del Mar's actions were upheld in federal court. The lateness of this decision came after the 60 day deadline for the political parties to appoint Judges of Elections. Consequently, in 19 wards without a committeeman, Republicans were blocked from appointing Republican Judges of Elections.
Effectively, as a result, Chicago's voting precincts in the inner city will not have bi-partisan election judges to secure the vote. Chicago will have hundreds of precincts where all of the election judges voted Democrat in the 2016 Primary and who were appointed by the Democrat Alderman in that ward. Literally, hundreds of precincts and potentially up to 1/3 of the city vote will not have bi-partisan oversight.
This is not good news for the security of your vote during such an important election year.
Our focus from now through the elections is to work with the Election Judge Association to recruit, place, and train poll watchers to assure that every vote is protected in Chicago. The Election Judge Association will raise the funds to pay poll watchers to help secure the most vulnerable polling places in Chicago.
We are launching our joint operation this week. There are about 300 high risk polling places we would like to cover. We also want to have eyes watching early voting and nursing home voting. Our program is designed to place poll watchers in as many locations as possible!