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McLean County clerk addresses disability voting incident at county board meeting

Public attendees at the McLean County Board's April 11 meeting
Colin Hardman
Members of the public attended Thursday's McLean County Board meeting largely in support of Terri Evans and her son, Tres'von.

McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael is responding to an accusation of disability-related voter discrimination.

Appearing at Thursday's meeting of the McLean County Board, Terri Evans said she’s assisted her son Tres’von, who has cerebral palsy, with voting since 2008. But after leaving the voting booth on March 19, she was asked for guardianship documents for the first time. Upon providing images of the documents, she was required to complete an affidavit, she said.

Terri Evans with son Tres'von
Colin Hardman
Terri Evans spoke about her experience voting with her son on March 19.

In response, Michael said she was sorry they felt they had received poor service, and that upon contacting her office, “They [election judges] were instructed to have them [Tres’von] vote provisionally. That means you vote the ballot. So, everyone got to vote.”

Evans said election officials promised to contact her with updates, but did not. Calling the clerk’s office two weeks later, she was able to confirm that Tres’von’s vote was counted.

Evans also said after the board meeting that Michael had told her the election judge who started the incident would not return.

“Kathy Michael called and left a message on my voicemail. She did apologize after I’d spoken with her assistant Mark Sanders and said, ‘I can assure you that this judge will not work the polls again.’”

After the meeting, Evans said she’d hoped for a better apology and improved election official training to address the issue.

Kathy Michael listens to public comment at the McLean county board's April 11th meeting
Colin Hardman
County Clerk Kathy Michael listens to public comment during Thursday's meeting.

Michael told board members the matter had been misrepresented on social media, and that Bloomington NAACP Vice President Willie Horton Halbert had called her a racist online in connection with the incident.

Halbert, who also was at the meeting, denied that, and called the accusation appalling. Halbert was seen speaking with Michael during and after the proceedings, and said Michael has offered to apologize publicly.


In another matter, the county board also finalized updates to some procedural rules.

The board voted to relax some rules regarding public comment. The county has waived its requirement of a two-day notice to address the board on a non-agenda item and 24 hours for an item on the agenda. The county will now allow the public to sign up in person to speak 15 minutes before the meeting or to sign up online within 24 hours.

All public comment has also been moved to the start of the meeting. Public comment for non-agenda items had previously been scheduled as one of the last times before adjournment.

Proposed amendments will now be distributed in writing at least seven days in advance of a vote, up from the previous five days. The measure is designed to allow staff and the board to more thoroughly review information.

The rules around members participating in meetings remotely have loosened somewhat, too. A simple majority, rather than a two-thirds majority can allow remote attendance.

This would not have changed the outcome of a party line vote that denied Democrat Jack Abraham participation in the meeting that appointed current chair Catherine Metsker, following John McIntyre’s resignation last year.

McClean County Board Chair Catherine Metsker
Colin Hardman
McClean County Board Chair Catherine Metsker.

Chair elections themselves also were slightly altered. When there are more than two nominees, those with the least number of votes will be eliminated round by round until two remain. Tied votes after this will trigger recesses in an effort to induce compromise. Metsker said this would not have affected the last appointment process, but may ease possible party deadlock in the future.

“If there is a tie, a continuous tie, that’s really where this [rule change] came into play. So it wouldn’t have impacted any of the previous chair positions or votes,” Metsker said after the meeting. “But it is to prepare if there was something, because we do have, as everyone is aware, 10 members that are of one party and 10 members of the other party.”

Metsker is currently serving out the remainder of McIntyre’s term as chair.

Updated: April 12, 2024 at 10:53 AM CDT
Colin Hardman is a correspondent at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.