Elections

UPDATE: Appellate court puts late voting on hold

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 18, 2016 2:53 pm

QUINCY — The Fourth District Appellate Court in Springfield late Friday afternoon stayed an order by Adams County Circuit Judge Chet Vahle that would have allowed extended voting next week.

The order came about two hours after Vahle denied a motion by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to vacate the injunction issued Thursday. Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard said extended voting will not begin Monday as scheduled.

“I expect the Fourth District will give us the opportunity to be heard on this with dispatch, probably the beginning of next week, given the timeline,” he said.

Vahle, in hearing Madigan's motion, said the injunction was constructed to maintain the integrity of the elections as much as possible.

“The right to vote is more important than following the statute in which the Legislature fails to provide remedies,” Vahle said.

Deputy Solicitor General Brett Legner, arguing the case for Madigan, said the Illinois Constitution and the state election code sets how and when elections are conducted, and the Legislature sets the laws to ensure election integrity.

“The mandatory injunction violates the Illinois Constitution, because it creates classes of voters who get an extra week,” Legner said. He said state law does not allow for election results to be publicized before polls close, and early Adams County results have already been released.

Legner said there were plenty of options for County Clerk Chuck Venvertloh to have fixed problems Tuesday, including printing more ballots before voting began, taking photocopied ballots to precincts, documenting voters who did not get to vote because there were no ballots, or extending voting beyond 8:30 p.m.

“Allowing election authorities to seek different days creates nonuniformity,” Legner said.

He also said extending voting could create a new precedent.

“Close elections might be contested or reopened, results questioned, and the overall integrity of the process undermined,” Legner wrote in his motion. “Some state's attorneys or county clerks could seek to keep polls open, others not, depending on reasons having nothing to do with enfranchising voters.”

Barnard said upholding the ruling would show the right to vote trumps other considerations. 

“The voters who will be afforded the right to extended voting are on unequal footing, but they're on the unequal footing of the most disadvantageous type,” Barnard said. “They were people who appeared at the polls for the purpose of voting, attempted to vote and were turned away because there were no ballots for them. That was not their fault, and it certainly shouldn't be their problems.”

Barnard said a voter would have only been able to cast a ballot if there was an electronic record of them signing in at their precinct but not receiving a ballot, or by signing an affidavit swearing under oath under the penalty of perjury that they attempted to vote but were unable to do so because of the lack of ballots.

“That, I think, under any circumstances is the best security that we can reasonably have,” he said. “If we see what has the aroma of voter fraud, we will investigate it, and where appropriate prosecute it. I'm really confident that people will take this seriously.”

Vahle's initial ruling required that any ballots cast next week be segregated in case they are later invalidated by a higher court.