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More than 350,000 VBM applications received in Chicago so far, state tops 1 million as robocalls try to discourage Black participation

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2020

* Tribune

The Chicago Board of Elections has received more than 350,000 vote-by-mail applications for the general election, up from about 250,000 in mid-August, and that number could grow to a third of all city voters by Election Day, the board’s chair said Tuesday. […]

The number of vote-by-mail applications the city has received so far is more than triple the board’s all-time record of 118,000, reached during this year’s primary, according to Marisel Hernandez, chairwoman of the Chicago Board of Elections.

Given the current rate, Hernandez said in an interview later, the city “could easily reach 500,000” vote-by-mail applications out of about 1.52 million registered voters.


More than 1 million Illinoisans have applied to vote by mail for the November election, roughly triple the number of the last presidential contest in 2016. […]

In southwestern Illinois, St. Clair County Clerk Thomas Holbrook said the office has received more than 25,000 mail ballot requests. That’s compared with roughly 9,200 people who cast ballots by mail in 2016. He said his office will hire more people to handle the influx. […]

A pending federal lawsuit against the [state’s vote by mail] expansion could further complicate things. Cook County Republicans allege expanded mail voting is a partisan scheme.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee intervened, accusing Republicans of “playing politics and risking the lives of Illinoisans by forcing them to choose between exercising their right to vote or the health and safety of themselves and their families.”

The judge has indicated he’ll rule before ballots go out this month.

* Meanwhile

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is warning the public about robocalls trying to discourage people from voting by mail.

According to Raoul’s office, some voters have reported receiving robocalls warning them that voting by mail could result in their private information being provided to third parties.

According to Raoul, calls can involve an automated recording claiming that information belonging to people who vote by mail will be shared with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track people for mandatory vaccines, police departments and law enforcement in order to locate individuals who have outstanding warrants, and creditors to help find people who owe outstanding debt.

Raoul is urging individuals to disregard any messages containing such false claims, saying in part, “I am urging voters to be aware that Illinois law does not permit election authorities to share personal information, regardless of the voting method you choose. If you receive a call, email or text trying to convince you otherwise, please report the contact to my office or the Illinois State Board of Elections.”

* More

When it comes to voter turnout, Chicago’s 3rd Ward, which includes Bronzeville, is one of the biggest.

But some voters, including Alderman Pat Dowell, were recently targets of robocalls discouraging vote by mail.

“The message was ‘don’t vote by mail because the information you’ve given the Board of Elections is going to go to a national data base for credit card companies to come after you,’” Dowell said.

She said the message also relayed that her private information will be given to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the police.

While the voice was an African American-sounding woman, Dowell said the caller ID came up as Jack Burkman, an ultra-conservative conspiracy theorist.

* These calls are not confined to Illinois

Michigan authorities are investigating a robocall that is targeting voters in Detroit by providing false information about mail-in voting.

The audio of the phone call in question:

    This is [unintelligible] 1699, a civil rights organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl. Mail-in voting sounds great. But did you know that if you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants, and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debt? The CDC is even pushing to give preference for mail in voting to track people for mandatory vaccines Don’t be [unintelligible] into giving your private information to the man. Stay safe, and beware of vote by mail.

* More

The recording alleges the call was made on behalf of Project 1599, a project spearheaded by conservative social media personality Jacob Wohl and GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman. The actual source of the call remains unknown, but Wohl and Burkman have a “known reputation for spreading misinformation in an effort to gain notoriety,” Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. Wohl denied involvement when contacted by The Detroit News on Thursday and said he and Burkman,while “not fans of mail-in voting,” were “puzzled” by the call.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 10:50 am:

    “…a civil rights organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl.”

    Well that’s an oxymoron. Jacob Wohl is to civil rights as Donald Trump is to compassion. These things just don’t go together. Wohl is a well known gadfly and accused felon.

  2. - H-W - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 11:03 am:

    Around 1990 or so, the Republican Party of North Carolina sent mail to African American residents, saying if they have moved in the past couple years, and try to vote, they may be committing a crime and go to jail. As a result, the turnout for African Americans from Charlotte to Durham was reduced. Harvey Gantt lost, Jessie Helms won. The federal courts later criticized the party, and said, “don’t do it again.”

    I can see the same think playing out here. Voters receiving mail and robocalls saying “if you registered to vote by mail, and you did not specifically tell your precinct that you will not be voting there, ….” It is crazy how political parties will work against allowing minorities the right to vote.

  3. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 11:10 am:


    If your party needs to discourage voting to win, you don’t have much to offer the electorate.

    Add a racial twist to that discouraging by a racist president, make no mistake, this type of disenfranchising is designed so angry whites, whom took over the GOP wholly, have a chance to continue to divide America.

    To the VBM… it was an ILGOP staple to a victorious party here. To think… to think that the Raunerites are nervous about… voters… I remember when what scared Dems in the collars was GOP votes by mail.

    I’m truly saddened that this state is slowly losing its two party opportunities.

  4. - Amalia - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    who benefits with a depression in Black turnout? must be about that.

  5. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 11:20 am:

    Logical to assume VBM will result in less secure ballots. You vote in-person early/November 3rd (social distance, wear a mask, wiped down machine…) you get a visual confirmation that your vote was cast and there are election judges from both parties ensuring a fair process. Put the ballot in the mail – so many variables are between your ballot and the election authorities.

  6. - Fav Human - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 11:35 am:

    who benefits with a depression in Black turnout?

    This strikes me as a very bad way to get a lower turnout. If I wanted to INCREASE black turnout I’d try something like this and let the backlash work for me.

    will result in less secure ballots.

    X% of mail gets lost each year, no reason why voting mail will be exempt from that.

  7. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 11:42 am:

    === Logical to assume VBM will result in less secure ballots.===


    No, not even close.

    Since the Civil War… until this President… no other President, ever, questioned the United States’ running a fair and free elections.

    If you question VBM, you’re likely using a Russian talking point to help Donald Trump in usurping our democracy.

  8. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 12:08 pm:

    ==== Logical to assume VBM will result in less secure ballots.===


    Well, that isn’t necessarily wrong…when the president himself is working hard to lose A LOT of mail.

  9. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 12:39 pm:

    =Well, that isn’t necessarily wrong…when the president himself is working hard to lose A LOT of mail=

    Just as troubling is the fact that the folks sorting/delivering those ballots, the National Association of Letter Carriers has endorsed the Dem for president .

  10. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 12:40 pm:

    === Just as troubling is the fact that the folks sorting/delivering those ballots, the National Association of Letter Carriers has endorsed the Dem for president .===


    Use your words. Why is that troubling? Are you pushing tin foil hat theories here?

  11. - Froganon - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 4:32 pm:

    When your Party’s message is fear and despair with a heaping side of economic collapse, cheating people our of their vote is the only path to victory. Gin up some ideas to make the economy work and get back in the game GOPers

  12. - Jocko - Wednesday, Sep 9, 20 @ 6:32 pm:

    ==Logical to assume VBM will result in less secure ballots.==

    And yet DJT voted by mail in the past three election cycles. Go figure.

  13. - Quenton Cassidy - Thursday, Sep 10, 20 @ 11:19 am:

    People who repeatedly speak in absolutes in political commentary, or can’t confess any possibility that there may be any weakness in their particular position or merit to the other side’s point, tend to erode their own credibility by doing so.

    Is voting by mail, at least to some degree, less secure than in person? Of course it is, just as delivering a written message in person is more reliable than dropping a letter in the mail. If you’ve ever taken care to do that, or even mail something “return receipt requested” or certified mail, then you have already confessed to a weakness in the security of mail in voting. That’s not to say it’s a terrible idea - in fact, it’s a good thing if structured properly - but again, let’s be sensible about it.

    Remember also there are many different variations of mail in voting, and the more a system focuses on ease and efficiency, the less secure it’s likely to be. For example, a system that requires the voter to mail back a completed and signed application for a ballot before receiving a ballot - such as is the case in Illinois - is far superior and more secure than one that simply mails ballots out to registered voters without requiring a written application, such as what exists in nine or ten states.

    Insofar as the President being the only President ever to call these issues into question, well…..that’s just partisan silliness and ignorant of history. Presidents are political creatures, and tend to say that which benefits them politically. That’s been true since George Washington.

    Also, consider this quote….

    “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud…”

    That’s a line from the report published in 2005 by the Commission on Federal Election Reform.

    The Commission was chaired by former President Jimmy Carter.

    One can only imagine the the hysteria here and elsewhere if the current resident of the White House were to say such a thing.

    Politicians have been using all available means to manipulate voter turnout for generations, including making completely false claims. It appears the degree of outrage you feel or express over such tactics largely depends upon whether it’s your team employing the tactic, or the opponents. Again, those who claim the righteous side need to look at who else is wearing your uniform, whether it be Speaker Madigan or President Trump.

  14. - Quenton Cassidy - Thursday, Sep 10, 20 @ 11:26 am:

    Frogman -

    In the last few days the Democratic nominee for President claimed that the United States is on the verge of another Jim Crow era.

    Putting aside the degree to which such a statement, if examined factually, either bolsters some claims that Vice President Biden has a significant and growing challenge in terms of mental faculties or a willingness to say anything to stir up his party’s base, my question for you is this -

    Are not both sides messaging “fear and Despair?”

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