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Election confidence rattled after voter receives wrong ballot

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(The Center Square) – Amidst record-low voter turnout, a voter is saying she has no confidence in the Illinois election system after receiving the wrong ballot.

Tammy Burnham walked into her polling place, in Will County Crete Township Precinct 8 on March 19, to vote and realized her ballot did not have the correct state House candidate on it. She was given the wrong ballot style. Burnham said she has no confidence in Illinois elections.

“The technician confirmed that the judges were supposed to hand out two different ballot styles. The election judges did not know there were two different ballot styles to hand out. Once they were informed of that the judges said, ‘Alright, well that’s settled.’ But I asked, ‘what about all the people who voted before me who potentially got the wrong ballot style?’” said Burnham.

Charles Pelkie, Will County Clerk chief of staff, said there are instances where judges hand out the wrong ballot style, but none of the races in this precinct were close enough to trigger a discovery request.

“In a close race, within a 5% margin, the losing candidate can request a discovery of a certain number of precincts. In a situation like this it would open an investigation and give everyone the opportunity to unseal the ballots and take a look at every aspect of the election in the precincts selected by the candidate who requested the discovery,” said Pelkie. “That didn’t happen in this precinct.”

Burnham said all the voters who voted prior to 1:30 p.m. should have been contacted if they received the wrong ballot style.

“I do know that they rushed the election judge training and I personally witnessed the election judges not understanding the process,” said Burnham.

Pelkie said they tell their election judges to make sure they’re handing out the right ballot style and that they are going to utilize new technology in the general election to notify judges if their precincts have multiple ballot styles.

“We are always thankful when a voter notifies us of a situation like this,” said Pelkie. “It’s important the voter remains alert and confirms at the checking station they have received the right ballot style before they even walk away from the check-in.”

Voter turnout for the March 19 Illinois primary election was 19.07%, the lowest in at least the last 50 years. Despite that, Will County had another mistake in last month’s election.

The other mistake: 60 faulty vote-by-mail ballots were sent out that didn’t have the 19th state Senate race on it. Burnham said the constant mistakes create a lack of confidence in the Illinois election system.

General Counsel to the Illinois GOP John Fogarty said Illinois’ goal should be giving everyone confidence in how the election is run and that the result is a true result.

“Adding a layer of complexity will detract from what should be the goal of everyone, and that is to give confidence in how the election is run and that the result is a true result,” said Fogarty to the Illinois Ranked-Choice Voting and Election Systems Task Force.

A task force in Illinois is studying ranked choice voting and Illinois could see the system implemented by 2028 for the presidential primary.

Fogarty said ballots trickling in 14 days after the election is both a victory for voters’ rights and yet one of the longest time periods in the nation to accept ballots.

“There are real concerns that arise when ballots come in via vote by mail after the election,” said Fogarty.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost and Republican co-plaintiffs, are represented by the legal group Judicial Watch. They contend that the two-week deadline for mail-in ballots burdens their right to vote by allowing “illegal ballots” to “dilute the value of timely ballots cast and received on or before Election Day.”

A recent Public Affairs Council/Morning Consult poll found that only a bit over one-third (37%) of Americans believe the coming elections will be honest and open to all eligible voters.