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Politics and Government
WGLT's reporting on the November 2020 election cycle.

Illinois Assesses Damage From Mistaken Voter Registrations

Secretary of State Jesse White
Seth Perlman
Secretary of State Jesse White’s office said the data of 574 people who self-identified as noncitizens was mistakenly forwarded to elections officials to be registered to vote. ";

At least three of 16 Illinois residents who cast ballots after being mistakenly registered to vote are U.S. citizens after all, election officials said Wednesday in assessing the damage caused by an error in the state’s automatic voter registration system.

Secretary of State Jesse White’s office, a key player in the system because it oversees driver’s licenses, said the data of 574 people who self-identified as noncitizens was mistakenly forwarded to elections officials to be registered to vote. Election officials said 545 of them were registered and 16 voted in 2018 and 2019 elections.

While those who checked a box on an electronic pad indicating they weren’t U.S. citizens should never have been registered, it turned out at least three from central Illinois counties are citizens. State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said it appeared another two — who have long voting histories — were also likely citizens. Elections officials suggested one explanation was that the registrants may have been confused during the process.

The error has left state officials to track down hundreds of people to determine who may still be eligible to vote and raised questions about the integrity of the system.

Illinois Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, attended a news conference Wednesday at the state Capitol to call for a suspension of the program and for someone to be fired. State House Republicans have called for legislative hearings.

"I am disappointed to see a program with such good intentions be so poorly administered,” said Davis. “Automatic voter registration has the potential to encourage more voter participation, but as we’ve seen, if it’s not carefully administered, it can have major consequences on the integrity of our elections."

Davis said he planned to host a listening session in Illinois through the House Administration Committee, on which he is the ranking Republican member.

"This egregious error further highlights the need for states to regularly update their registration rolls and how H.R. 1, which federally mandates processes like Automatic Voter Registration for every state, can have serious issues for states with even less infrastructure than Illinois. I’m planning to convene a listening session ... where I hope to hear from the Illinois secretary of state about how he intends to solve this error and reassure Illinois voters that non-citizens are not being registered to vote," Davis said.

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said House Republicans who serve on the House Executive Committee have sent a letter to Speaker Mike Madigan asking for an immediate hearing to investigate the situation and hear testimony directly from those involved.

“This situation needs to be fully investigated and those responsible held accountable. The people of Illinois deserve to have confidence in our electoral process and know that only eligible voters are casting ballots,” Brady said.

State and federal law bars noncitizens from voting.

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