2012 election candidate questionnaire: Gordy Hulten, Champaign County clerk

Gordy Hulten

4903 Watermark Drive, Champaign, IL 61822

Republican

Date of Birth: 2/7/1975

Education: BA in Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 

Other: Former Champaign City Council member; worked in several positions for the Devonshire Group from 2003-1011, including director of sales and marketing; served in U.S. Army Reserve 1995-2001; involved in politics for 15 years as policy analyst and campaign manager for several candidates; was Champaign County Republican of the year in 2006; founded and administered former IlliniPundit.com (blog); volunteers with the United Way of Champaign County and Rotary Club of Champaign; married with two children.

1. What qualities do you possess that qualify you to be the county clerk?

I have integrity and I am innovative and independent, the three most important qualities for a county clerk.

Integrity is critical. I have a record of, and am committed to, doing the right thing and strictly following the law in all situations, and treating all customers and voters equally.

I am innovative, always working to improve operations, provide better services, utilize technology creatively and identify collaborations and savings for taxpayers.

I am independent, with a record of making difficult decisions and standing on the law and on principle, regardless of benefits or consequences for Republicans or Democrats.

2. What do you believe is the most important attribute of a county clerk: familiarity with election law, working with other county officials, the ability to oversee a large staff, or something else?

The most important quality is to lead a large staff, establishing a culture to ensure services are provided fairly, in compliance with the law and best practices, transparently, and with integrity and efficiency. The ability to lead the staff effectively ensures that the important characteristics discussed above become the standard for the entire office and all operations.

3. Are there changes the clerk's office requires that can be implemented locally?

Yes, some of which we are implementing for the November 2012 election. For the first time, Champaign County voters will be able to early vote at multiple locations, under a plan enacted with bipartisan support and with no additional purchases of expensive election equipment.

For the first time, our election judges will process voters' Election Day ballot applications using laptops (poll books) rather than cumbersome binders of pre-printed paper applications, providing more efficient service with all capital expenses covered by grant funds. Our entire process was developed in-house, using best practices from other jurisdictions, and will save tens of thousands of dollars annually.

Also for the first time, Champaign County voters will be able to log in to our website and securely generate their own individual absentee ballot application online, suitable for printing and mailing to our office. This convenient service saves postage expense and time for by-mail absentee voters.

We have begun in-house printing of all ballots. First implemented for the 2012 primary, the equipment was secured at no additional cost and the process ensures better quality, improved security and over 60 percent savings in ballot printing costs.

Last year, when civil unions were created by the state legislature, we created in-house and implemented online marriage and civil union license applications. This convenient option for customers saves time for both customers and staff and ensures more accurate data processing.

We have returned to printing statutorily required election notices in The News- Gazette, the largest circulation paper in Champaign County. By printing the notices as an insert, significant savings are achieved while providing much wider distribution and better service to taxpayers.

In 18 months, we have made operational improvements in all of our departments, returned almost 5 percent of our total budget in FY2011 and are striving for similar savings in FY2012. We have worked closely whenever possible with other county departments to integrate our ideas and operations. We seek the use of technology whenever possible to improve service and deliver savings, such as an improved website and new Twitter and Facebook accounts.

In the future, we anticipate further improvements and refinements, continually striving to provide efficient, transparent and innovative service to Champaign County taxpayers.

4. Are there changes in Illinois law that you would push for as the elected county clerk?

I am fortunate to have experience working with the General Assembly and excellent relationships with local legislators in both parties. I have been able to have input into legislation affecting our office on several occasions, most particularly when working on implementation of the new Civil Unions Act, and in tweaking the Elections Omnibus Bill of 2012 that mandated early voting on the University of Illinois campus, among other things.

In the future, I hope to work with the Illinois Association of County Clerks, Illinois Municipal League, local legislators and leadership. My legislative goals include general election code cleanup, removing anachronisms, and clarifying calendars, timelines and deadlines for future elections. Additionally, I hope to work with the Legislature to achieve better collaboration between clerks, the State Board of Elections and the Secretary of State's office for faster, more accurate verification of driver's license numbers for voter registration.

5. What do you think the public's perception of the county clerk's office is? If there are problems, what do you want to do to improve that perception?

The public's perception of our office is that it is efficient and responsive to customers and voters. The public consistently provides feedback that acknowledges our imperfections and understands that we act on that constructive feedback to improve our performance.

More globally, for some time, especially at the national level, both parties have deliberately undermined public faith in election processes for partisan purposes.

The consequence has been damage to the public's faith in the fairness and accuracy of elections at all levels. The most effective antidote is increased public visibility of all our election administration processes, improved transparency, and even-handedness and fidelity to the clear standards of the law in all our administrative decisions. This has been my record, including tough decisions that angered many in my own party, and it has been recognized by praise and support from community leaders of all political persuasions. In the future, we will maintain that standard, hopefully countering the partisan poison that permeates our national and state political scenes.

6. Is there a need to make it easier to vote? If you believe there is, are there things the county clerk can do, or is it mostly a legislative responsibility?

Yes, we should absolutely make it easier to vote, and there are many things that we have done already. For example, we worked with Democrats and Republicans to establish seven new early voting locations, implemented poll books to process Election Day voters more quickly, programmed online absentee ballot applications, and I have personally done extensive voter registration and education outreach, especially to demographics least likely to register and vote.

7. Do you think fundamental changes are required in the county clerk's annual budget?

Yes. In the next 10 years, the tabulators and voter assistance terminals purchased with federal (Help America Vote Act) money in 2005 and 2006 will be obsolete or non functioning in sufficient numbers so as to warrant replacement. Complete replacement of all our county's tabulators and VATs is a multimillion-dollar proposition today, complicated and made more expensive by federal certification standards that create effective and inefficient monopolies. In Champaign County, we have begun discussing the need to plan for that capital expenditure, but have been unable to take action yet.

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Political Observer wrote on October 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm

     An acquaintance of mine sent me the following item that discusses a voter-suppression (caging) letter that was sent out by the Republican-Appointed  Champaign County Clerk, Gordy Hulten.  This is an extremely serious matter that deserves a full investigation by the Federal District Attorney for this region of the State of Illinois.

 ------------------------

     In early June of this year, an African-American woman in Champaign received a letter from the Champaign County Clerk’s office that began, “We are unable to confirm your address.  Either a piece of mail was sent to you and returned to us by the U.S. Post Office as undeliverable, or Election Judges from the last election indicated you have moved.”  The woman was puzzled because she had lived in the same place for several years and had just voted in the March primary a few months earlier, without experiencing any problems whatsoever.  Since the letter she was currently reading had just been delivered to her supposedly “undeliverable” address, she must certainly have wondered, “What the heck is going on here…Why is this letter telling me that my voting rights have been taken away?”

    To try to make some sense of this issue, let’s take a step back and try to examine what led to this letter being sent.  Because of the re-districting that had been done at state, county and municipal levels after the 2010 census results were tabulated, all voters in Champaign County were supposed to have been mailed new voter identification cards before the March, 2012 primary, informing them which new districts they were now located in, as well as where their (possibly new) polling places were located.  These cards were sent out in batches, and, according to the Champaign Post Office, if some cards in a batch were torn, it was possible that the entire batch would be returned to the County Clerk’s Office as undeliverable.  Such a case is apparently what occurred here:  The woman’s new identification card was apparently among a batch of cards that was returned to the County Clerk’s Office as undeliverable, and that was what triggered the letter that she’d just received.

     This immediately raises a number of questions, though, that deserve an answer:  How many cards were returned to the County Clerk’s office by the Post Office as “undeliverable” due to being torn or due to being in the same card batch as other torn cards (as distinct from those cards that were returned because the corresponding voters had moved)?  How did the cards come to be torn; i.e. Was this something that occurred due to actions of the County Clerk’s Office or due to actions of the Post Office, and what sorts of things can be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again?  Were there more cards returned from certain neighborhoods than from others?  Finally, why didn’t the County Clerk simply reprint the torn cards and mail them out again?  It was, after all, his responsibility to deliver new voter cards to all the registered voters in Champaign County before the March primary so they would be aware of their new election districts and (possibly new) polling places, and so that they could then decide who to vote for in these new districts in the March primary.  Thus, each card the County Clerk failed to reprint and send out not only represents a failure on his part to do the job he was appointed to do, but likewise each such card also represents the possible disenfranchisement of a voter in the March primary, given that the voter may have not known which primary races corresponded to his or her new districts (or, indeed, may not have even possibly known where his or her new polling place was located, in cases where the re-districting forced a change of polling places).

     What’s more, when one examines this letter further, there’s even a much more sinister development that occurs when it lays out the course of action that the disenfranchised voter is required to follow, in order to reinstate full voting rights for the November elections.  By law in Illinois, when an individual registers to vote, she is asked to provide ANY ONE of the following three identification numbers, as a means of personal identification:

(1)      The last 4 digits of her Social Security Number      **OR**

(2)      Her State-of-Illinois Driver’s License Number         **OR**

(3)      Her State-of-Illinois-Issued Photo ID Identification Number

However, the form included within the letter REQUIRES **BOTH** Items #(1) AND #(2) above to be provided, which is completely contrary to Illinois voting law.  In effect, what this requirement does is tell the recipient of the letter that if she doesn’t have an Illinois Driver’s License, then she can’t get her voting rights re-instated.

     It turns out that this sort of thing is a familiar dirty trick that is often used as a form of Voter Suppression all over the country; indeed, the letter the County Clerk’s office sent out is referred to as a “Caging Letter,” a term that carries over from the direct-mail marketing industry.  Wikipedia has a useful summary of what Caging is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caging_%28voter_suppression%29

and the Brennan Center for Justice has “A Guide to Voter Caging” here:

http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/a_guide_to_voter_caging/

     This issue of caging is a very serious matter that deserves a full investigation by the Federal District Attorney for this region of the State of Illinois.  As Champaign County voters, we cannot afford to stand by and do nothing when our fellow citizens are treated in this manner.

Political Observer wrote on October 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm

     By the way, the Federal District Attorney for this region of the state is James A. Lewis, and here are a few links to some information about him, from his website:

http://www.justice.gov/usao/about/offices.html

http://www.justice.gov/usao/spotlight/lewis.html

 

 

Political Observer wrote on October 12, 2012 at 5:10 pm

     For the benefit of those who may be unfamiliar with “Caging” (and/or for those who don’t have the time to take a look at the Wikipedia and Brennan Center links in the first post above), let me try to make matters a bit more succinct.  Gordy Hulten’s form letter can easily be read as an “attack letter” upon a voter’s Constitutional right to participate in the Democratic process.  The letter appears to contain a number of untruthful statements in it, and it also appears designed to scare and intimidate the recipient from voting, which, of course, is the purpose of the extremely repulsive process of “caging” in the first place.

      Imagine, for example, that you'd just received this letter in the mail, you’ve opened it, and then you’ve read the statement, “Your original signature is required on the form below in order to ensure you have full voting privileges in future elections.”  Right away, you feel like you’re being attacked…Someone is threatening to take away your full voting privileges in future elections, unless you do exactly what he says.  This is not the kind of letter that anyone with any knowledge of “consumer service” would write  to a person who he or she wished to treat with dignity and respect.

      If you then skipped down to the bottom of the letter, where you’re required to provide your signature, you'd notice the following statement, just below the line for your signature:

  “* All the above information is true. I understand that if it is not true, I can be convicted of perjury and fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for 2 to 5 years.” 

Wow!  How could one help but wonder if it’s even worth it to try to take the time and effort to vote, if the person who seems to want to take away your voting privileges is looking to fine you $5,000 and send you to jail for 2 to 5 years if you happen to make the smallest error in the details of the information that you send him?!

     What’s more, if you don’t have a driver’s license, then there’s no way that you can complete the form in the letter, because it demands both the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number AND your driver’s license number, contrary to the requirements of Illinois law.  Of course, this is something that Republicans at a national level have been trying to do for quite some time now: Take away the voting rights of all those citizens who don’t have a driver’s license, because those voters as a group tend to vote more Democratic than they do Republican.  It looks like Gordy Hulten might have found a way to try to start doing that right here in Champaign County, despite the protections of Illinois state law.  So,is this the person you’d really want to see elected as your next County Clerk?