Republicans again seek suspension of Illinois’ automatic voter registration program as new problems surface

Some statehouse Republicans renewed their calls for the suspension of the state’s automatic voter registration program after reports of another problem sent election officials scrambling to ensure the accuracy of voter rolls.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he had lost confidence in the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office over what he and state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, said had been one disaster after another in the implementation of the automatic voter registration program. Butler and Bourne spoke to reporters during a news conference at the state capital on Wednesday

Officials from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office said they have registered about 700,000 people who’ve interacted with their office to vote through the program. But that came with news in January that more than 500 people who said they weren’t U.S. citizens were improperly registered to vote. One of those people cast a ballot in Champaign County.

Other problems that have surfaced this year included former inmates not being registered, and the Secretary of State forwarding the information of 16 years old to be registered to vote. None were registered and the Secretary of State said those problems have been fixed.

The latest problem revealed this week led to conflicting voter preferences for more than 1,100 people being forwarded to elections officials.

“The situation with 1,151 names, there was conflicting information with people filling out two different forms, getting an ID card and then getting a REAL ID,” Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker said. “One, they checked they wanted to register to vote, while for the ID they said ‘no’.”

Druker said the Illinois State Board of Elections found the conflicting information and notified the Secretary of State and the issue was corrected.

Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said they found 102 new errors in his jurisdiction, 83 more errors than were forwarded to his office.

“One is too many,” Gray said. “We can’t have this. We’ve got to have confidence in the system. It’s got to be operating correctly. We’re less than one week away from election day and we’re dealing with registration issues.”

While no voter’s rights were affected by the most recent issue, Gray said the errors were unacceptable.

“No harm, no foul, in that it was identified and we were able to act on it quickly, but it should not be happening,” Gray said. “These are stresses and stains on the elections process that we as the election authority should not have to be dealing with in correcting mistakes this close to an election.”

Butler demanded an audit of the program, but not from the Illinois Auditor General.

“This is important,” Butler said. “The Auditor General has an ongoing case before the State Board of Elections. I think we need an outside independent audit to be performed on the entire AVR system.”

Auditor General Frank Mautino has a pending case over the use of campaign funds from when he was a state lawmaker.

Bourne said a properly running automatic voter registration program makes sense to efficiently keep voter rolls up-to-date when a voter interacts with a government agency.

“This is a conservative principle, we want your interactions with government to be efficient and a one-stop-shop makes sense for that with an AVR kind of purpose,” Bourne said. “So I think that if it’s done well, then it’s the right thing. The problem is we need to make sure that it’s done well.”

Bourne, Butler and Gray said the program should be suspended.

“It’s a self-inflicted wound,” Butler said. “This is our program that we’re carrying out that has actually, actually has impacted elections. Foreign interference has not impacted elections, and I’m not downplaying that, but it has not impacted elections. We actually have a case here in Illinois where a noncitizen voted in Champaign County.”

The cutoff date for AVR registering people for the March 17 primary election has already passed, but the program is still running, registering people for the November General Election.

The Secretary of State and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have resisted calls to suspend the program. They also face a lawsuit from an outside group over the implementation of the program.

Butler said the communication about all the problems has been “terrible.” Druker said there was no cover-up.

“Not sure what the cover-up would be,” Druker said. “Jesse White has a very strong record to register people and history of civil rights, and voter rights. …We have been to three hearings … and that flies in the face of a cover-up.”

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