Glitch in Illinois' new vote-by-mail system

October 26, 2010 (CHICAGO)

An Illinois county election official says that thousands, and potentially hundreds of thousands, of voters who are expecting a ballot sent to them by mail may be disenfranchised.

Chicagoan Rosia Carter is one of 404,000 registered Illinois voters who recently received vote-by-mail requests that were sent by the Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign.

"By the time I filled it out and sent it in, my vote would not get counted," Carter said.

She and others called the I-Team when they noticed the return address is not their local election official but instead a PO box for the organization. IDCC officials claim they are entering ballot request information into their own database before sending the mailings on to election authorities who then mail voters the ballot.

The Lake County clerk received a shipment of 500 ballot requests from the IDCC Tuesday. By law, her office has two days to process the ballot requests. The problem is, Thursday is the deadline for election officials to get the ballots out.

IDCC told the clerk that another 1,500 ballot requests are headed to her office, which, she says, may not give her enough time to process all the ballots, potentially disenfranchising voters.

"I called Mike Madigan," Carter said, "and they said 'We farmed out this job, here's their phone number,' and I said 'I don't want the number, that's your job to call.' "

Carter and others who contacted the I-Team are furious that their vote may also be thrown out because the IDCC put the registered voters' wrong birthdate on the form.

"My birthdate is wrong," said Carter. "That means it doesn't match the election board of commissioners' records."

The IDCC says that less that "1 percent of the ballot applications have been affected by the date-of-birth glitch and that a voter's birthday is not a required piece of personal data to request a ballot."

"If it affects only one person, it's wrong. If it affected just me, it's wrong," Carter said. "System needs to be checked."

The IDCC told the I-Team that they used their PO box as the return address because they "are better able to track the process and make sure there are fewer problems."

Forty-five of the ballots the Lake County clerk received Tuesday from the IDCC should have gone to Will County. At the clerk's own expense, Lake County is having them delivered overnight to Will County so those voters won't be disenfranchised.

Full response from the Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign

Reponse to your inquiry from the Executive Director of the ILDCC, Dave Seman:
Less that 1 percent of the ballot applications have been affected by the glitch. Date of Birth is not a required piece of personal data to request a ballot. It was additional information that we included that may be wrong in some cases because of a vendor glitch. We are monitoring the problem but don't have any cause for alarm. We are simply encouraging voters to check the application to make sure their date of birth and all personal information is correct. The majority of applications we are getting back have been fixed by the voters themselves and we are confident that this glitch will remedy itself. The important thing is for people to fill out their absentee ballot application carefully and completely. We have the resources in place to make sure everyone's vote is valid and counted.

Why are you sending it to a PO Box instead of directly to an election authority?
We are doing everything we can to make sure our voters vote - this is pretty standard. In order to help Illinoisans apply for an absentee ballot the ILDCC incurred the cost of the postage so that we can help ensure folks get their ballot on time and that we know who is voting. Turn out as everyone knows is critical to this election. By working this through a PO Box we are better able to track the process and make sure there are fewer problems.

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