Democrats and Republicans have come together to criticize a programming error in the secretary of state’s office that resulted in over 500 potential non-U.S. citizens being involuntarily registered to vote.
(TNS) — Politicians from both major parties sought assurances Tuesday that there would be no repeat of a programming error in the Illinois secretary of state's office that yielded more than 500 possible non-U.S. citizens being inadvertently registered to vote.
Of those people, registered under an automatic voter registration system for people who apply for driver's licenses or state identification cards, 16 ended up voting, including one who voted in three elections and another who voted in two, according to State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich. Combined, 19 ballots were cast statewide in the general election of 2018, the consolidated primary of spring 2019 and the consolidated election of spring 2019. None of the votes were cast in Sangamon County, where the one registration that resulted from the glitch has been suspended.
Secretary of State Jesse White's office discovered last month that between July 2, 2018, and Dec. 13, 2019, registration information of 574 people was "improperly forwarded" to local election authorities to be registered, even though those people had indicated while at secretary of state facilities that they were not citizens. That yielded a call Monday from some House Republicans for a legislative hearing, and that was echoed Tuesday by Democratic state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, who sponsored the automatic registration bill, which was signed into law by GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner in August 2017.
"There is absolutely no room for administrative error when it comes to properly conducting our election system," Manar said in a statement. "Democrats and Republicans came together and unanimously approved automatic voter registration, and we expect it to be done correctly. We need a gaugeable plan of action from the secretary of state's office to make sure such errors never happen again. If it takes a Senate committee hearing to get those answers, that's the course I'll pursue."
Also Tuesday, all 19 Republican members of the Senate issued a letter to White, asking which license facilities were involved and for assurances that "this never happens again."
State Republican Chairman Tim Schneider issued a statement saying the automatic voter registration program should be suspended and secretary of state employees responsible for the improper registrations should be fired.
And U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and five GOP members of the Illinois House scheduled a Wednesday Statehouse news conference to discuss "the need for an urgent resolution" to the problem, as early voting for the March 17 primary starts Feb. 6.
"As soon as the programming error was discovered, it was fixed," said Henry Haupt, spokesman for White. He added that individuals and election authorities involved were all notified. He also said White's office would "absolutely" appear at a legislative hearing if asked.
All 574 people involved were in the United States legally, Haupt has said.
In a letter from the State Board of Elections to the 48 election authorities to which names were improperly forwarded for registration, it stated that even though the 574 people indicated "no" when asked if they were citizens, "that does not necessarily mean they are not currently citizens." Local election authorities have the final say in purging the names from their voter roles.
"It appears that they're legal residents of the United States, but not legal to vote," Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker said when asked in Carbondale Tuesday about the situation. "And many people who filled out the form ... may have filled it out incorrectly." He also said the secretary of state is "continuing to scour the records to make sure there is nothing else and to eliminate that problem."
"Securing our elections, making sure that ... everybody knows that our democracy is working properly, is a priority of mine," he said, and during his administration, there have been "significant investments in cybersecurity."
Manar rejected the idea that the program should be suspended, and said there is "no question" there will be legislative hearings.
"We debated this bill for well over a year," he said. "It was heavily negotiated and it was heralded as a bipartisan success. So having an administrative error of this magnitude come forward unfortunately taints what I still believe is a proper move to modernize our voter registration database in Illinois. ... Automatic voter registration is not the problem here. The secretary of state's office is."
Dietrich said that under the automatic registration law, 745,000 registration applications from the secretary of state have been forwarded to local election authorities since July 2018.
©2020 The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.