Ongoing petition challenges in state and local primary races have resulted in alarming discrepancies in Early Voting procedures across the state of Illinois. Illinois lacks a statewide protocol for addressing this issue, so election jurisdictions are left to create individual policies that result in vastly different processes for voters depending on where they live. This has the potential to disenfranchise voters, and make the voting process especially difficult and cumbersome for voters in some jurisdictions.
For example, voters who have already cast their ballots in St. Clair County and East St. Louis will receive a letter in the mail if petition challenges result in some candidates being removed from the ballot. Voters would then need to cast another ballot that is up to date, or take the risk that some votes are not counted because certain candidates are no longer eligible. In Madison County, votes are finalized when submitted, so current voters will not get a chance to update their votes if the final ballot differs from the one they submitted.
These jurisdictions have advised voters to wait to cast ballots if at all possible, but may feel the need to move forward with Early Voting as mandated by state statute, even though ballots cannot be finalized. In other counties, voting has been officially delayed until ballot challenges are resolved.
“These differing processes are terrible for voters, and could lead to confusion and disenfranchisement. It is our hope that there will be a statewide solution put in place to ensure that this never happens again,” says Susan Garrett, former state senator and chair of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Garrett’s comments highlight the need for a single statewide response to ballot challenges to ensure uniform treatment of all Illinois voters.
These different procedures could also have an effect on election outcomes. “With so many candidates running for Attorney General, these disparate voting processes could affect the outcome of the race,” according to Garrett. “Not only could this have an effect on the AG race, other local races on the ballot could be affected as well.”