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It’s not about “signatures,” it’s about registered voters

Monday, Jun 23, 2014

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

The group attempting to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot to change Illinois’ indisputably hyperpartisan legislative redistricting process is running into some well-publicized petition problems.

Here’s what’s behind the difficulties.

Almost 90 percent of the “Yes for Independent Maps” petition entries tossed as invalid by the Illinois State Board of Elections this month were for people who were either not registered to vote or weren’t registered to vote at the address shown on the petitions, official documents show.

Yet, the state’s media, led by the Chicago Tribune editorial page, has almost solely focused on problems with signatures that don’t match up to voter registration cards. It’s either a gross misunderstanding of the situation or a deliberate deception.

The state board used a computer program to choose 25,000 petition entries at random out of the 500,000 or so entries turned in by the remap reform group. Board employees then examined the entries and struck 13,807 as invalid, for a failure rate of about 55 percent.

Of those, 7,535 entries (55 percent of the total rejected) were from people who were not registered to vote, according to Board of Elections Director Rupert Borgsmiller. Another 4,565 (33 percent) were signers who weren’t registered to vote at the address shown on the petition. The Yes for Independent Maps folks say they believe they can “rehabilitate” 4,130 of those, but that would be highly unusual. They need to restore somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 petition entries.

But despite the fact that the remap reform group mainly lost petition challenges based on voter registration, the news media has stubbornly continued to focus on the relatively tiny fight over whether petition signatures matched up to signatures on voter registration cards.

The reality is that just 937 petition entries (7 percent of the total rejected) were tossed because the signatures didn’t match up to voter registration files. Another 721 (5 percent) were tossed because the Board’s staff examiners couldn’t read the signatures and/or the address to figure out who the person actually was.

Yet, a Chicago Associated Press story published last week focused solely on “signatures,” as did a Tribune news story, as did two Tribune editorials, as did pretty much everyone else.

Obviously, if the problem is merely matching up signatures, that’s a subjective exercise and ripe for potential abuse. But the real problem with the remap petitions is unregistered or improperly registered voters. These things simply are not subjective.

“It’s because of a backroom process, an uneven, rushed process, that it had gotten to this point,” remap reformer Michael Kolenc told reporters last week. The “uneven” process has also been highlighted three times by the Tribune editorial board and it’s yet another grotesque distortion of the facts.

A June 5th Tribune editorial claimed “Individual examiners’ invalidation rates ranged from 17 percent to 86 percent.” In one of two editorials last week, the Tribune finally admitted that they were talking about just two Board staffers. “Should we take the word of the elections board examiners as gospel? One examiner disqualified 86 percent of the signatures he or she checked. Another examiner disqualified only 17 percent.”

So, what about those two examiners? Well, if you look at the actual data you’ll see that the two staffers in question examined only a handful of entries. A tiny sample of a 5 percent total sample can mathematically explain any wild individual variations.

The Board assigned 38 staffers to the examination task. One staffer looked at just a single entry, so let’s toss him out. Of the rest, the number of signatures examined ranged from 1,714 down to 91, for an average of 676 examined and a median of 711.

The staffer who “disqualified only 17 percent” examined just 92 petition entries. The staffer who “disqualified 86 percent” looked at just 183 entries. The overwhelming majority of the examiners had pretty close to the final rate of 55 percent invalid.

Director Borgsmiller also noted that in the last two days of the examination process, his staff’s validation rate jumped to over 60 percent. Borgsmiller said that most of the petitions looked at during that period were from Downstate. The Yes for Independent Maps group had several solid Downstate volunteers, particularly in central Illinois.

The bottom line here is that this state’s media has fallen for spin that’s made the Board of Elections look like some evil entity. If that’s so, then why did the Board certify Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s widely hated by insiders term limits constitutional amendment last week? The most likely answer is almost always the simplest. Rauner obviously ran a tight ship. The remap folks apparently did not.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Demoralized - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 9:29 am:

    They are claiming shenanigans, when they should be looking in the mirror to see the real reason for all of the problems - their incompetence at gathering signatures.

  2. - Frank - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 9:36 am:

    No one in the media has ever coordinated a petition campaign, or challenged the petitions of a candidate for that matter. If they had, they would see nothing unusual or sinister about the problems the Fair Maps people are having. Heaven forbid they send a reporter to the Brd. of Elections to page through the sheets themselves…that would require actual reporting. Much easier to regurgitate the conspiracy theories spoon fed to them by the Fair Maps folks who, by the way, are desperate to divert attention from their shoddy work.

  3. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 9:36 am:

    I remember reading once that an editorial need not be fact-driven.

    I guess the Tribune Editorial Board just took it to a new level and made up facts.

    That Trib. Editorial Board, they’re cutting edge.

  4. - train111 - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 9:37 am:

    Sad thing is that everyone uses ‘corruption’ as a crutch when they don’t have theirbway.

  5. - Upon Further Review - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 9:42 am:

    The system of handwriting comparisons to issue ballots and nominate candidates is old fashioned, but it works if administered fairly.

    Political bias can be a factor depending upon the clerks comparing signatures. Sometimes, it is mere administrative indifference. It used to bother me to see petition signatures invalidated because a clerk would disallow a petition signature signed by a senior citizen whose handwriting had deteriorated since the person had registered to vote forty or fifty years earlier. I am middle aged now, but my own registration signature dates back to when I was a high school senior. Some allowance ought to be made for the fact that many petitions are signed on clipboards rather than on desktops.

    Registration objections are simpler to process and should be less prone to complaints.

  6. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 9:43 am:

    The “Yes” people made a pretty sweet payday for such shoddy work. Lot of bigfoot contributions, embarrassing work product.

    The Tribbie editorial on Michael Kasper yesterday was one for the books. All it lacked was a call for tar, feathers, a rail and a mob.

    Apparently, arguing the law in court or before a state regulatory board is sinister, or undemocratic, or evil, or something.

    I’m not sure. It was very confusing. But the gist of it is, you’re a victim. Just like the Tribbies.

    But it was reminiscent of the incitement crazy squirrel-head Tribbie Bob Greene peddled against the Supremes in the “Baby Richard” case. And about as honest and intelligent.

  7. - x ace - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 9:59 am:

    Sorry to see them make a very good agency look like “evil entity”. ( Plenty of evil out there , but they got wrong target )

  8. - walker - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 10:00 am:

    The Board of Elections has been doing their job fairly.

    Let’s hope the petition gatherers can fairly “rehabilitate” the registered voter signatures that have been rejected.

  9. - Wensicia - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 10:12 am:

    The Tribune editorial board has its own political agenda this election season and anyone perceived as blocking this agenda gets raked over the coals in their paper, no matter the lack of justification. Their partisan ideology stands in the way of objective (and truth based) editorials.

  10. - CirularFiringSquad - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 10:15 am:

    Tribbie edit board has not been fact driven for years. It is now based on a model that looks a like preteeners screaming in junior high hallways. The less anyone listens, the louder they scream. They should use their lung power to ask Mitt to give us some details on his days on the board at predatory subprime lender HomeBanc Mortgage Corp. This would be especially poignant on the day the WSJ reports French banking giant PNB agreeing to repay the $8 billion they stole from U.S. customers.

  11. - muon - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 10:19 am:

    Borgsmiller’s comment about Downstate petitions being of higher quality points at one difference between the two drives that I saw.

    The term limit group tapped into a lot of GOP precinct committeemen who carried their petition along with the ones for their usual candidates. My experience is that the committeemen know where to go to get their usual number of valid signatures and did just that.

    I didn’t see that happen with the independent map petition. There were occasional circulators I knew in my suburban Chicago area, but they weren’t people who typically gathered signatures. My guess is that lack of experience is one of the factors that produced so many invalid signatures at the Board of Elections. If the independent map Downstate operation tapped into the more experienced circulators, it would show in the validation rate.

  12. - Mister Whipple - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    Now let’s go a little easier on the Trib editorial page. In their defense, they have lots of company. how about the Lee Enterprises editorial sheep, I mean staff…

  13. - Southernless - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 11:28 am:

    muon, you’re absolutely correct. Why the map folks didn’t go after committeemen is beyond me.

  14. - Upon Further Review - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    There is no need to hold a tag day or a pity party for Mike Kasper. He has made plenty off of his dealings with state and local governments in Illinois. His wife landed an uncontested judgeship with no primary or general election opponents.

    His arguments in this matter are straightforward, but he has advanced some dubious arguments in other matters when the party asked him to do so.

  15. - walker - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    ===Why the map folks didn’t go after committeemen is beyond me.===

    Because they wanted to maintain the image that this effort was “non-partisan.”

    Rauner’s group had given up on that.

  16. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 1:35 pm:

    No one should be surprised that such a huge number of people who are hostile to our Constitution and the democratic process are not registered to vote.

  17. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 1:42 pm:

    The Tribbies tin foil hat is picking old “Johnny Sokko” cartoons from Channel 44.

    If the bipartisan elections board was going to engage in corruption for the powers-that-be, you’d think it would have been to kill the term-limits amendment.

    If you’re going to be term-limited, why would you care about the map?

  18. - steve schnorf - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 2:00 pm:

    word, you aren’t keeping up on your conspiracy theories. They killed redistricting because the courts could be more reliably counted on to kill term limits, don’t you see? Of course!

  19. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 2:28 pm:


    Once you realize that Madigan is Sauron and Kasper is Saruman, the rest of the narrative falls into place.

  20. - walker - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 2:45 pm:

    SSchnorf: All conspiracy theories build out from a kernel of truth.

  21. - steve schnorf - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 2:58 pm:

    and in this case the kernel is?

  22. - wordslinger - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 3:06 pm:

    –and in this case the kernel is?–

    Judging by the general loopiness of the Tribbie edit page these days, I’d say it’s the ghost of Colonel McCormick. That guy could be whack-a-doo.

    Or maybe Colonel Sanders. Could be that there’s some secret herbs spicing up the thoughtsicles high in the Tower.

  23. - Anonish - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 3:08 pm:

    This completely makes sense after what I witnessed during their gathering process in Chicago. The Map petition collectors would be on a cta platform or on the train asking people if they wanted to sign the petition to help make fair maps or some such line. I never heard one of them ask if the person was a registered voter.
    When I shared that with experienced political friends they all did a spit take or equivalent.

  24. - Fair Map vs Term Limits - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 4:27 pm:

    Seems pretty apparent The Map people did not monitor things as closely as Rauner. The man, Rauner, knows what he is doing. All the more reason to concede “he da’ man” in Novemba

    All this other stuff is just a waste of time. A new map would be nice, but let’s not get greedy here. We shall have a new Governor, we shall get Term Limits, so let’s not get piggish about this.

  25. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 4:38 pm:

    ===Seems pretty apparent The Map people did not monitor things as closely as Rauner. The man, Rauner, knows what he is doing. All the more reason to concede “he da’ man” in Novemba===

    Yeah, him, and his “no plan, all chickens” platform.

    Rauner hasn’t proven anything but paying the right group to get petitions through a process, which was better than the. Maps.

    If Rauner fails in November, it will be because of the details.

    Rauner is a “Sales Guy, big picture…”. The Primary, 17 point drop in days, proved that,

  26. - Fair Map vs Term Limits - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 5:45 pm:

    @Oswego Willy
    You need to let the anger go. Rauner was relatively detail oriented in making sure all the I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed. It is not a small feat to get the necessary signatures for a constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot. It is looking like it is a done deal. But nobody should count their chickens before they are hatched. There is still plenty of time for Rauner to stumble along the way, but as each day goes by, the odds get greater that he will get elected.

  27. - walker - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 5:55 pm:

    Schnorf: Steve, Sorry I didn’t get back. Watching El Tri (Mexico) winning in world cup.

    The “kernel of truth” is that the courts will indeed have some brain cramps over the “term-limits-plus-the-kitchen-sink” approach of the proposition, IMHO.

  28. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 5:55 pm:

    - Fair Map vs Term Limits -,

    This was a Bruce Rauner special;

    Hire people, stay out of the way, hope they do it right.

    Things go right, take all the credit, thinks go wrong, take no responsibility, claim ignorance to what happened and say he was not “part of it.”

    It’s his business model. Look how he claims his business successes as “hands on” and failures as “wasn’t me, I know nothing of that!”

    ===But nobody should count their chickens before they are hatched.===

    Or chickens presented with a “Plan”, that wasn’t a plan, kinda like a guideline. You mean those chickens? lol

    No ground game every day leads to defeat. Offices ain’t regional coordinators, regional coordinators are not ground troops, which in turn have no ID’d Plusses.

    Delusion is fun and denial is not a river in Egypt.

  29. - Fair Map vs Term Limits - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 7:02 pm:

    @Oswego Willy
    Team Quinn is done. Floundering. No game plan. Somewhat pitiful the Dems cannot mount a better defense of the crown. This game is “Capture the Flag” at the adult level, and dems are clueless. It is begun.

  30. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 7:28 pm:

    “Team Rauner is panicking. Floundering. No game plan. Somewhat pitiful the GOP couldn’t mount a better defense of the Party. This game is “Hide who I am!” at the adult level, and Raunerites are clueless. It is the beginning of the end of his dream.”


  31. - Fair Map vs Term Limits - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 7:43 pm:

    @Oswego Willy


    My you are touchy. Understandably so, though. But the pendulum swings. Back and forth. Have a good evening. Take a drink. Relax. The Repubs may stumble. They could trip and stub their toe. Unlikely. But stranger things have happened. Mainly, the Dems just don’t have a candidate to put up against Rauner. You got to play the cards in your hand. And it ain’t much.

  32. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 7:47 pm:

    Rauner supporters, lol.

    That is one creepy way to respond.

    ===My you are touchy. Understandably so, though…Have a good evening. Take a drink. Relax.===

    Like Tom Hagen to Sen Geary…

  33. - fair map - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 10:18 pm:

    @Oswego Willy
    You will get through this. One foot in front of the other. It will only be eight years for Rainer. At most 12.

  34. - steve schnorf - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 10:56 pm:

    walker: agreed

  35. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 23, 14 @ 11:27 pm:

    Every time it’s about me, I know who the worried one is.

    If Bruce goes 12 years, won’t that make him a career politician?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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