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Get it together, people

Tuesday, Sep 22, 2020

* 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.

* Tribune

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Higland IL - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:01 am:

    I threw my SOS letter away, but pretty sure it just reminded us that we had received a letter earlier from our County Clerk about mail in voting.

  2. - BobCL - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:21 am:

    There are 102 counties so who according to Tribune are the other 6 local election authorities?

  3. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:22 am:

    This is disappointing to process.

    If we all are going to take the importance of voting seriously, and at the same time be committed to safely vote, and voting by mail is safe for the voter and legal, right, and just as an option, while being secure… the priority to ensure these benchmarks are hit, that’s the only measure to success.

    I believe we as Americans are the measure, we are the benchmark for fair and free elections, and while there are others who want to sow disenfranchisement, question outcomes, even undercut validity of our process, this isn’t just a glitch, this helps those who want conspiracies and undo confidence a chance to feel empowered.

  4. - JB13 - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:24 am:

    I read the letter.

    It also could have been written in a way that doesn’t leave those receiving it with the impression that they’ve somehow done something wrong by not requesting a mail-in ballot.

    Unless that was the point.

  5. - Bruce( no not him) - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:28 am:

    It’s not my fault. It’s your fault. No it’s yours. ad infinitum.
    Please somebody step and admit you screwed up.

  6. - Annonin' - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:30 am:

    The letter could have been written noting a cut off date. But it does give GOPie clerks something to flap their jaws about.

  7. - Responsa - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:34 am:

    The SOS letter was poorly worded and creepy with a “big brother is watching you” vibe. Very disappointing approach, especially to those of us who have committed to serve as judges at the physical polling locations for early voting and on election day.

  8. - Retired Educator - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:34 am:

    I vote in person. They are sending out unneeded reminders, in my case. I have no intention of voting by mail. So I simply threw the information away, and will vote on Nov. 3.

  9. - Just Me 2 - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:34 am:

    They need to include communications people when they send these things out. I would have started the mailer that says, “As of August XX….”

  10. - Anon y mouse - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 11:35 am:

    This was entirely foreseeable.

    Illinois government is going to Illinois government. ;) ;) ;)

  11. - Dog Lover - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:06 pm:

    I agree with previous comments about the letter. I get vote by mail information in my mailbox nearly every day, but not a single postcard or letter provided an explanation of the process. It’s no wonder people can be distrusting of the process.

    I used Google to look into it and have a better understanding now. I will vote in person, but I live in a small community and feel that the risk is low.

  12. - Todd - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:21 pm:

    On the bright side, you usually have to wait 3 hours at a DL facility to be confronted by this kind of incompetence by the SoS office. This was delivered right to your mailbox.

  13. - thisjustin - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 12:22 pm:

    Anon y mouse hit the nail on the head. It is as if Illinois just can’t get it right the first time, every time. Concealed Carry licensing, marijuana dispensaries, gambling….

  14. - Prognosis Negative - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 1:15 pm:

    I recently moved, so I was impressed the SoS did not send it to my old address and have to rely on the Post Office to forward it. They sent it directly to my new address - in Indiana.

  15. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 1:21 pm:

    My Mom got one of these letters and freaked out. She was convinced she had done the application wrong. I told her not to worry about it and threw my letter out. But it’s very confusing and not exactly confidence-inspiring.

  16. - Peter Torque - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 1:35 pm:

    –There are 102 counties so who according to Tribune are the other 6 local election authorities?–
    There 102 county election authorities and six municipal boards of election: Bloomington, Chicago, Danville, East St. Louis, Galesburg and Rockford.

  17. - Ex employee - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 2:52 pm:

    LOL Prognosis.

    Funny how IL wastes money & how they prioritize things. Never had a problem before.

  18. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 3:03 pm:

    Ol’ Jesse’s office seems to always shift the blame on someone else. Is there even one competent person in that office that even bothered to proofread the original letter and try to put some logic to it? No much of a brain trust there….

  19. - Comma Chameleon - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 3:16 pm:

    If the “vote by mail” application reminders were just a matter of “We followed the law,” then why did I receive THREE identical letters on the same day, each mailed to the same person at the same address? This suggests more than just a lag in communication among different authorities. And though I was confident this was just an administrative FOOBAR, the combination was a bit intimidating, none the less.

  20. - zatoichi - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 5:32 pm:

    On a positive spin: the USPS seems to have easily handled 5.4 million additional pieces of mail in about 4 days (Sun-off, Mon-mail comes, Tues-complaints start). Should be able to handle completed ballots OK if voters mail them in 4 days before election day.

  21. - Romeo - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 7:33 pm:

    Me and Mrs. Romeo now live in Florida and we both got this mailer (with the Florida address, mind you).

  22. - Hickory - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 8:15 pm:

    If you must remind someone to vote, I hope they do not vote. I’m sure they are unformed.

  23. - Anon E. Moose - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 8:21 pm:

    I received said letter. Called Don Gray’s office in Sangamon County - was told that I wasn’t in the system - and that my best bet was to resubmit online. My original submission was 2 weeks ago (by mail.) So last Friday, submitted online. Called today - nope, we don’t having any application for your mail-in ballot. So - going to submit - AGAIN tomorrow and call on Friday.

    What could possibly go wrong…

  24. - Motambe - Tuesday, Sep 22, 20 @ 10:00 pm:

    Voter response in our household was “why did I get this from the SOS? The county clerk already sent us letters About this.” The answer is the General Assembly and governor figured out another way to waste the taxpayers money.

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