State government bureaucracy doesn’t have a great reputation for efficiency, but in recent months we’ve seen lapses in the administration of state government that are unacceptable. When it comes to our most basic rights, like the right to free and fair elections, there is no room for error.
This year lawmakers learned that the Secretary of State’s office accidentally registered 574 self-identified non-citizens to vote through Illinois’ Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) program. Of those, 545 completed the registration process, and we know that at least one non-citizen voted in an Illinois election after being registered in error. At about the same time, we also learned that 1,152 proper voter registrations were wrongly coded as non-voters.
In addition to these wrongful registrations or non-registrations, we also learned that state election officials had to intervene and halt the automatic registration of 4,700 16-year-olds whose information was wrongly sent to the State Board of Elections by the Secretary of State’s office. Nowhere in our laws do we allow 16-year-olds to vote. Furthermore, through an investigation, we now know that not only are there issues with the AVR program itself, but AVR is being implemented outside of the lawful process that requires legislative approval of agency rules.
AVR should have been suspended until we got answers and all issues were rectified, because when it comes to our sacred right to free and fair elections, there should be zero margin for error. But despite these alarming instances within our voter registration system, Illinois Democrats took action in May on a massive expansion to the state’s vote by mail program. Illinois already has some of the most permissive voting laws in the country, and legislation approved by Democrats this year is ripe for fraud. Through SB 1863, millions of dollars will be spent to mail ballot applications to an estimated five million voters who voted in 2018, 2019 or 2020.
SB 1863 did not require county clerks to scrub their voter rolls of deceased people and those who have moved out of the state or away from their original voter registration address. It also included no safeguards to prevent ballot harvesting by bad actors working as political operatives. Of equal concern, this legislation allows county clerks to place ballot collection boxes as places of their choosing, so voters can drop their ballot in a ballot box rather than into a mailbox. There were no provisions regarding structural requirements for these boxes, which leaves these receptacles wide open for tampering and theft. The use of these ballot boxes would also increase the level of work required by county clerks to ensure all ballots are collected and properly counted.
I support efforts to allow ballot access to every registered voter, and I disapprove of voter suppression. But I do not support an expansion to vote by mail when safeguards aren’t written into the legislation and while questions regarding the AVR program persist. I believe the failure to adequately address ongoing problems with AVR while massively expanding vote by mail threatens the integrity of the upcoming 2020 election and will cast a shadow of doubt over this November’s election results.