Judge rules Adams County clerk must allow late voting

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 17, 2016 11:00 am
Judge Chet Vahle

QUINCY — An Adams County judge has ruled voters who showed up to polling places Tuesday but were turned away because ballots were unavailable should have the right to cast a late ballot starting Monday. 

Judge Chet Vahle granted a mandatory injunction Thursday afternoon ordering Adams County Clerk Chuck Venvertloh to conduct late voting from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. March 21 to 25 in the clerk's office at the Adams County Courthouse, noting there was no punitive or financial recourse he could order to provide residents who were unable to vote during Tuesday's primary election after many polling places ran out of ballots.

Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard, who filed for the injunction, said enough safeguards were in place to prevent fraud in the future.

“It is no exaggeration that we ask people to die to protect this right,” Barnard said.

He said a perfect storm was in place to bring such a high turnout on Tuesday, including major national and local races, local issues and nice weather to encourage people to vote.

In order to cast a late ballot, a voter must sign an affidavit swearing under oath under the penalty of perjury affirming that they attempted to vote but were unable to because there were no ballots at their precinct, or they must be entered in the electronic poll books at precincts.

All Quincy precincts and four precincts near Quincy use the electronic polling books, Venvertloh said.

Venvertloh testified in court that when a voter registers at their polling place with the electronic polling books, a registration form is printed out, which they sign. They then take it to the precinct where they are handed a ballot to fill out. The registration form is kept by election judges and placed in a binder when a ballot is provided, so Venvertloh said workers would be able to verify if the person cast a ballot earlier.

Venvertloh, the respondent in the case, agreed to accept the injunction. 

It is not certain how many people were turned away from voting on Tuesday.

“We have essentially 34 polling places (74 precincts), and people are telling me it could be as many as 100 voters (turned away) per polling location,” he said.

Vahle ordered Venvertloh to place notice of the election in The Herald-Whig and weekly newspapers in the county, and disseminate information to other media outlets. The notice must also be placed on the county's website.

The late ballots must be kept segregated from other ballots in case of court challenges.

Vahle noted that he and about 125 others stayed at his polling place until 9:25 p.m. Tuesday when ballots arrived, but that between 10 and 20 people left to take care of children or because of other obligations.

The hearing was delayed briefly as Vahle and attorneys spoke with an assistant state's attorney, who asked that the case be delayed so the office could provide input because of the importance of the ruling. However, Vahle denied the request to delay it.

A spokesman with the attorney general's office said the office is reviewing the injunction order and talking with the Illinois State Board of Elections to determine if next steps are necessary.

Certified election results are due to the state March 29. Venvertloh said tabulating the ballots after voting is complete next week would not be difficult.

However, there are 1,162 photocopied ballots that need to be counted from Tuesday. They will either be hand-counted or transferred to another ballot before being inserted into a tabulator by election judges, with representative from both political parties observing, starting Monday.

Adams County Clerk Chuck Venvertloh reaction to judge's ruling

Earlier reporting from the court hearing:

Reporter Matt Hopf is at the court hearing in which State's Attorney Jon Barnard is seeking to allow voting in the Adams County Clerk's office for those who were turned away on Tuesday.

This will continue to be updated, but this is what we know so far:

• The hearing was delayed as a representative with the attorney general's office wished to address the court. Barnard said he spoke with representatives of the attorney general's office and the Illinois State Board of Elections today.

• Barnard is seeking the order from Judge Chet Vahle. Voting would be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. March 21-25. Barnard described the late voting process as similar to early voting.

• Voters would have to sign an affidavit punishable by perjury that they were unable to vote at their polling place.

• County Clerk Chuck Venvertloh was on hand and said he waived his right to have the state's attorney represent him and he was agreeable to the order.

• Attorney Drew Schnack, who is appearing on behalf of Gary Farha, said Farha was neutral on the proposed injunction. However, Schnack said he was concerned that tallies in the race have already been released and published. He also mentioned that Farha's opponent in the state's attorney race, Jennifer Cifaldi, has already conceded.

• Also at the hearing are Adams County Republican Central Committee Chairman Laura Kent Donahue and former State's Attorney Barney Bier.



State's Attorney Jon Barnard

Original story:

QUINCY -- Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard said he is seeking an order for a mandatory injunction to permit late voting for voters who attempted to vote in Tuesday's primary election but were unable to do so because of the unavailability of ballots.

In a statement, Barnard said he will make the request before Judge Mark Drummond at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

The mechanics on how the process would work would be set out in his petition, which was being prepared Thursday morning.

"Those mechanics will include proposed notice to all affected voters, limitations for eligibility, hours for late voting and dates for the same," Barnard said. "The process will essentially mimic the early voting process."

Barnard on Wednesday asked the Illinois attorney general's office and the State Board of Elections to review Tuesday's election after receiving reports that Adams County voters were turned away from polling places that had run out of ballots.

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