* NBC 5…
A well-intentioned mailer designed to remind Illinois voters of their right to apply for mail-in ballots has added fuel to the fire of an already fragile mail-in effort.
Letters went out last week from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office to some 5.4 million voters.
“Your local election authority had indicated that you have not yet applied for a ballot,” the letter stated. “However, you still have time to submit an application.”
Problem is, many who received the letters say they did apply for ballots, causing some to worry that the letters were fraudulent, or that their applications had been lost.
The law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June, gave local election authorities until Aug. 1 to send vote-by-mail applications to anyone who voted in either the 2018 general election, the 2019 municipal election or this year’s March 17 primary. Applications also went to those who registered or changed their mailing address after the March primary.
The law also required the state’s 108 election jurisdictions to report to the state elections board by Sept. 2 the names of all voters who had received an application and all those who had applied for a ballot. The secretary of state’s office had until Sept. 15 to send letters to those who had received but not returned an application.
“Per Illinois law, the secretary of state’s office was required to mail out letters by Sept. 15 to the list of names provided to our office by the Illinois State Board of Elections,” Henry Haupt, a spokesman for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, said in a statement. “We complied with this law.”
But the letter — which reads, in part: “Your local election authority had indicated that you have not yet applied for a ballot; however you still have time to submit an application for a vote by mail ballot” — left some voters who’ve already applied confused, according to some local election officials.
* Greg Hinz…
Under the law, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office is supposed to mail, no later than Sept. 15, to anyone who hasn’t returned the mail ballot application sent to them by the local county clerk or, in Chicago, the city Board of Elections. White did just that—“We followed the law,” says a spokesman—sending out roughly 6.4 million letters.
But the names of those getting the letters came from the state election board. And it got the lists of names from the state’s 102 county clerks and the city board.
Well, some of those clerks submitted their lists a little early, says Dietrich. And both the state board and White’s office needed time to process all of that mail. Bottom line: Someone who actually did fill out a mail ballot application as late as Aug. 27 may not have shown up yet on the list of those getting the letter from White that was mailed no later than Sept. 15. “There was a gap,” Dietrich says.
* Phil Luciano…
Per the new law, the Secretary of State sent letters to those voters Sept. 15. The message was brief:
“Correspondence was previously sent to you by your local election authority with information on how to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot. Your election authority had indicated that you have not yet applied for a ballot; however, you still have time to submit an application for a vote-by-mail ballot. Please contact your local election official listed in the upper right hand corner of this letter to complete an application, return an application or to receive additional information about vote by mail.”
In coming days, county clerks all over Illinois were inundated with calls from perplexed voters. Some wondered if perhaps voting booths had been eliminated in favor of an all-mail election. Others insisted they sent in their applications but now worried that some sort of snafu would cut them out of the ballot process.
The truth? The voting booths will be open in November for those who want to cast a ballot in person. And for those voters who submitted a vote-by-mail application, those ballots will be mailed Sept. 24.
* Mark Brown…
White’s office pointed blame at the State Board of Elections, which compiled the mailing list. The election board blamed its list on the two-week time lag between when it received information from local officials about who had not applied and when the letters went out.
State election board spokesman Matt Dietrich also suggested the letter could have been written more clearly with a disclaimer to explain that anyone who had applied in recent weeks could disregard the notice.
A new state law expanding the use of mail voting requires the secretary of state to send the reminder letters. A second letter is supposed to be sent on Oct. 15.
A spokesman for White’s office said the October letter will be amended to try to head off further confusion.