Friday, October 31, 2014

Clerk Warns of Absentee Ballot Confusion


October 29, 2014
Voters say they’re not receiving ballot after several weeks
by Keith Stewart
Moultrie County Clerk Georgia England is urging those who have submitted for an absentee ballot through the mail and have not yet received one to call her office before the end of the day Thursday, October 30.
According to England, last week her office was contacted by four members of the public, a wife and husband and a father and his son, all asking why they had not received their absentee ballots in the mail after sending in a form they received in the mail several weeks ago.

According to the county clerk, all four individuals said the applications they had received were from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s campaign and that it directed them to mail their absentee ballot application to a Chicago address, rather than the Moultrie County Clerk’s office.
The News•Progress reached out to the Rauner campaign about the alleged application confusion. Campaign deputy press secretary Lyndsey Walters said that, “Pursuant to the state election code, many campaigns on both sides of the aisle typically invite voters to return absentee ballot applications to an address other than the local county clerk, after which all applications are sent to the appropriate clerks.” She added that the Rauner campaign has sent out mailers “urging voters to apply for an absentee ballot.”
Seeing at least one of the Rauner campaign mailings shows an absentee application that is already filled out and asks individuals to review the information for accuracy before sending it directly to England’s office in Sullivan.
England says her office has received dozens of these cards and has honored them, though added she has had to reject a few due to invalid information.
The clerk added that the Chicago address that was reported last week may have in fact been an election authority, but if so, the ballots never found their way back to her office in Sullivan.
Walters also supplied what she claimed was a similar absentee ballot application card from the Illinois Democratic Party. On it, the application card shows a return address to “IL Vote By Mail Processing Center in Bloomingdale, Ill.”
When asked if this was in fact supplied by the state Democratic party, media representative Steve Brown said he was not familiar with the address and that instead, the party, which has also sent out absentee ballot application cards, has directed individuals to send those back to their local election authority, i.e. county clerk.
The News•Progress also reached out to both Gov. Pat Quinn’s campaign as well as the state Republican party but did not receive a response prior to deadline.
Nonetheless, England and her staff are concerned that there might be others in the county waiting on a ballot in the mail that won’t be coming.
According to the clerk, her office has a one-day turnaround for all absentee ballot applications. As a result, England is urging those who have submitted requests for an absentee ballot and not received one to immediately call her office at 728-4389. Given that Thursday is the last day for her office to be able to mail out absentee ballots, voters who have not received one yet will likely have to make other arrangements.
“There is no way that an absentee request can be mailed, received back and mailed out by Thursday,” said England on Tuesday. “Voters that say they applied for an absentee ballot should contact our office by phone to find out the status of their request.  If we have not received a request, the person should make arrangements to either come in to the clerk’s office during voting hours go to the polls on election day.”
Early voting is available Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Monday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Special Saturday hours for voting are only 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
For those who have changed their name or moved and did not change their address,  grace period registration and voting is available at the same times as above but only in the county clerk’s office. Grace period registration and voting also runs through election day from 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Early voting has picked up this week according to the clerk, who reported around 60 voters in the last two days. She added that her office has also seen an uptick in absentee voters, with 200 voting in person and 200 that have been mailed out.
“Comparing absentee ballots with the last governor race, we will be bypassing that number,” said England.
For more information about voting in the upcoming election, contact England’s office at 728-4389.

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