Candidates vying for Will County clerk are focused on aging computer systems and election security.
(TNS) — With the growing fear of elections being hacked, cybersecurity is foremost on the minds of both candidates running for Will County, Ill., clerk in the Nov. 6 election.
Republican Laurie McPhillips and Democrat Lauren Staley-Ferry want to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Nancy Schultz Voots.
“We have to be aware that people are trying to hack into computer systems. There has to be checks and balances,” said McPhillips, who attended a recent conference on cybersecurity.
She said she will explore new technology and upgrade the computer system in the clerk’s office, and said everything has to be backed up by paper ballots.
Staley-Ferry, who worked in a bank for 11 years, dealt with and had professional training in matters of identity theft and credit card security and managed cybersecurity projects for consumers. If elected, she plans to create a task force of cybersecurity professionals to work with the state’s attorney’s office to review the current operations.
“The focus should be on the security of elections. I will look at security measures in an ongoing fashion,” said Staley-Ferry, who is currently a county board member.
Both candidates said their main difference is experience.
Staley-Ferry said her corporate experience is what sets her apart from her opponent. The management and budget skills she developed at the bank “fit the duties of the clerk’s office,” she said.
Staley-Ferry, who is completing her first term on the board and also serves as Democratic Minority Whip, said she has a “current understanding of the county’s challenges.”
Her opponent has “not served in office for some time. It’s important to have current experience,” she said.
McPhillips said she brings a broad range of experience in county government, having served in various capacities for over 20 years.
She began her county career in 1985 in the economic development department, became secretary to the county administrator, and later the county executive, when it transitioned to that form of government. She was county administrator for seven years, director of operations for four years, and recorder of deeds from 2004 to 2008.
During this time, McPhillips said, she prepared budgets, negotiated contracts, and worked closely with all county offices, including the clerk’s office.
She said she would like to digitize all vital records in the clerk’s office, as she did in the recorder’s office.
“I served both parties,” she said, noting that the clerk should be “non-partisan.”
McPhillips also wants to increase voter turnout by educating residents and working with precinct committeemen to keep people informed on issues such as voting by mail and early voting, which are “great options for voters,” she said.
Another convenience that she would like to add, is a cellphone app, which can provide election information, she said.
Staley-Ferry said she wants to improve access to voting and make the process more “convenient” by extending the hours of voting and increasing the number of polling places, especially in Eastern Will County.
She said she also plans to do more outreach “to make sure they know what clerk’s office provides” and work with high schools and universities to encourage young people to vote.
Staley-Ferry said she will seek staff input to improve the efficiency of the office and will examine the budget to eliminate unnecessary expenses.
McPhillips, a Plainfield resident, is currently a real estate broker and property manager. She said she will run the office with “honesty and integrity.”
Since the clerk also is a “keeper of signatures,” she said “many people are concerned” about Staley-Ferry’s previous charge of felony-forgery.
“There should be no clouds of suspicion,” McPhillips said.
In November 2002, Maricopa County, Arizona police charged then Lauren Staley with forgery for allegedly writing a $500 check to herself from the business where she worked at the time, and then moved to Wisconsin.
Charges were dropped in 2012, and Staley-Ferry admitted her guilt when it came up during the primary campaign, calling it a “poor decision.”
“Looking at the past is not necessary right now,” she said. Her current campaign is “focusing on the positive and what I bring to the office. Residents have been supportive.”
Staley-Ferry also claimed that when McPhillips was recorder of deeds she “inflated her budget by 23 percent.”
McPhillips said as recorder, she won a “fiscal responsibility award” from the Will County auditor.
A Joliet resident, Staley-Ferry said she has been part of the county board that has reduced the tax rate and constructed new facilities, such as the Public Safety Complex and new courthouse, now under construction.
She said she has “consistently lobbied” for improvements to the Fairmont community in unincorporated Lockport Township, and spends a lot of time in her district, but also attends meetings throughout the county to find out what is important to residents.
“I am committed to building relationships throughout Will County,” she said.
Staley-Ferry is an executive board member for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. She also serves on the boards of the Spanish Community Center in Joliet, and the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau. More information is at lauren4clerk.com.
McPhillips said she is “committed to the community,” and serves as vice-chairwoman of the Nature Foundation of Will County, and is a member of the Will County Farm Bureau, the Will County Historical Society, and the Will County Emergency Food and Shelter board.
©2018 The Daily Southtown (Tinley Park, Ill.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.