U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin took a break from Supreme Court fights and White House crises Monday to endorse Democratic candidate for McLean County clerk Nikita Richards.
Fresh off his grilling of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, Durbin stopped at Illinois State University for a joint appearance with Richards. Richards, an ISU alum, will face two-term incumbent Republican County Clerk Kathy Michael on Nov. 6.
“This is the traffic cop … for our rights as citizens to vote,” Durbin said. “Is there anything more critical and more important in a democracy than your right to vote?”
Richards has accused Michael of voter suppression on many fronts—allegations that Michael denied forcefully in a statement last week. On Monday Durbin criticized Michael’s decision to delay the start of early voting before last spring’s primary. McLean County was one of several counties that delayed early voting as election officials waited for an attorney general’s ballot challenge to be resolved. The State Board of Elections encouraged counties to start on time.
“In that 12-day period of time, the voters of McLean County who were supposed to have a chance, for their own convenience, to step up and vote didn’t get that opportunity. That is a critical issue,” Durbin said Monday.
Previously, Michael told GLT that starting early voting as originally scheduled could have disenfranchised some voters.
"How could we have some voters voting for someone and then two weeks later have a different ballot?" said Michael.
During Monday’s stop, Richards praised the ISU College Democrats and other ISU students who’ve worked on her campaign. Richards has criticized Michael’s handling of the ISU voting site during the 2016 primary, when students had to wait in long lines to vote. Michael said she had actually flagged the possibility of long lines as early as 2015 and asked the McLean County Board for additional money to prepare. She said she was rebuffed. The county board later approved additional money to add election judges.
“You are owed those state-mandated services that the clerk’s office should provide without making students feel guilty for desiring what it is automatically owed to you,” Richards said.
It was Durbin’s second Bloomington-Normal stop in the past week. He also marched in last Monday’s Labor Day parade in Bloomington.
The McLean County clerk’s race—not usually a marquee event—has attracted unusually high amounts of attention from out-of-town politicos. Richards also won the support of Democratic candidate for governor JB Pritzker. U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, a rising Democratic star, appeared at a Richards event in July.
“Since the last election, I have seen more life, more activity, more commitment (from Democrats) in McLean County than I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been doing this a few years,” Durbin said.
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