Frerichs, Jakobsson promote clarity in 'grace period' law

CHAMPAIGN — Two local Democratic state lawmakers say they will promote legislation next spring to clarify in-person "grace period" voting rules in the state.

The measure, said Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, and Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, is prompted by what Frerichs said are obstacles to more convenient voting that have been erected by Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten.

Although most other Illinois jurisdictions allow same-day voting during the state's pre-election grace period, Hulten requires such voters to apply for an absentee ballot, wait for the application to be mailed to them, then return the application to the county clerk and wait for an absentee ballot to be mailed back — a process that could take several days.

Hulten, a Republican, said the process treats all voters equally and helps discourage voter fraud. Some Democrats, including Hulten's election opponent, Urbana Alderman Charlie Smyth, said it discourages and suppresses voting.

Hulten said Thursday he would "love to work with them on finding a solution so that we can tighten up the law and provide better service to voters. I think we can address everybody's concerns pretty easily."

He said he doesn't like Illinois' grace period law "because of the way it's written. It attempts to create a special set of circumstances for voters who wait until the last moment to register to vote or to update their registration. What we'd like to do is treat them the way we treat everyone else but give them maximum convenience. Let them vote but let us hold onto the ballot to make sure they haven't voted somewhere else and make sure they don't have a duplicate registration somewhere else."

Frerichs stopped short of accusing Hulten of suppressing the vote, "but I think what he's doing is putting some more obstacles in the way that some people may not be able to follow through and have their vote cast."

"I applaud efforts to stop voter fraud," Frerichs said at a news conference at the county Democratic Party headquarters in Champaign. "But if suppressing voter fraud means that for the very few examples out there, there will be scores or hundreds of people turned away, I don't think that's the right thing to do."

Jakobsson said she would propose legislation "to close these loopholes so that when people want to vote they're not going to be disenfranchised from this great opportunity."

"We've worked to try to get more early voting and grace period voting, and I think we've seen that unfortunately we've left a loophole, we've left a little bit of space there in order to allow our county clerk to mail these ballots," said Frerichs. "I don't think it was our intent or the intent of the Legislature that if someone comes in and can show proof of ID, and they can show proof that they're able to be registered here, they should be able to vote and they should be able to vote a full ballot, not just a federal ballot."

Hulten has the discretion to impose the extra steps, he said, and Frerichs said he wasn't accusing the clerk of wrongdoing.

"No one here is alleging anything illegal is being done, but the county clerk is saying that he wants to make sure there isn't voter fraud," said Frerichs. "Our fear has been that anyone who is paying attention to electoral reforms throughout the country over the last year, you have secretaries of state and legislatures passing what they call reform in order to do away with voter fraud, something that has just not been proven, something that they have found maybe 10 verified cases in the last 12 years or so around this country."

Preventing voter fraud isn't his primary motivation, Hulten said.

"We do grace period voting the way we do because we are committed to treating every voter who registers in Champaign County the same, whether they register in August or whether they register a week before the election."

Hulten, Frerichs and Jakobsson had worked earlier this year on legislation aimed at increasing early-voting opportunities in Champaign County. Jakobsson was asked if she was disappointed about the grace period voting dispute in Champaign County.

"Not only are we disappointed, but if an individual is not allowed to vote, that individual is going to be greatly disappointed," she said.

 

Frerichs and Jakobsson are up for re-election on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, David Collier, an Urbana resident who said last week he attempted to register to vote at the county clerk's office, said Thursday that he finally received the absentee-voter application on Wednesday, a full week after requesting it.

Now he has to wait for a ballot to arrive in the mail.

"Hopefully it will be here, but it took a week last time for me to get my last item of mail. If it does come, it's going to be pretty close (to the Election Day deadline)," Collier said.

Under state law his ballot will have to be postmarked by Nov. 5 or he can return it in person to the county clerk's office on Nov. 6, Election Day.

"We mail everything out the same day we get it back here. So the delay is not on our end," Hulten said. "I personally have run mail to the post office at 10 o'clock or midnight every day for the last seven or eight years, just to make sure we are running everything as efficiently as possible."

He said "it's not my choice for a voter to wait until seven days before the election, it's the voter's choice. There are 140,000 people in Champaign County who registered before October 9th. It's their choice to wait until the last possible moment."

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

jthartke wrote on November 01, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Some people move during the time of that grace period, or immediately before. They should have the right to vote at their new addresses.  The clerk's office has refused to accept forwarded mail as proof of residence. For many people, it sometimes takes weeks to get a direcly addressed piece of mail. It is not always just an issue of waiting until the last moment.

Political Observer wrote on November 05, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Ever since the most recent Gordy Boo Boo story first broke, it’s been clear that multiple eyewitnesses have consistently described 4 distinct steps in Sgt. Hulten’s Obstacle Course for Grace Period Registration and Voting:

1. First the victim needs to make a trip to the County Clerk’s Office at the Brookens Building to initiate the application process, and do the preliminary paperwork, making sure that all the required proof of identity and proof of residence has been properly brought along for the occasion. (Otherwise, it will be necessary to return home and start over.)

2. Then, once Step #1 has been successfully accomplished, the victim has to go home and wait however many days it happens to take for an application for an absentee ballot to arrive in the mail. When the application finally arrives, if it ever does, the victim then needs to fill it out with the information requested.

3. At that point the victim can either mail in the application for the absentee ballot (with days of additional mail delay) or take it directly to the County Clerk’s office. If all is in order with this application, then an absentee ballot will at some point (apparently after meticulous checking with multiple jurisdictions) be mailed to the victim’s residence.

4. Once again, the victim needs to return home and wait however many days it happens to take for the absentee ballot to arrive in the mail. When the absentee ballot finally arrives, if it ever does, then the victim needs to fill it out and mail it to the County Clerk’s Office, postmarked by Nov. 5, or it can be returned in person to the County Clerk's office on Nov. 6, Election Day.

One might easily ask, “What kind of deeply disturbed, authoritarian, high-F-Scale (MMPI), obsessive-compulsive clone of Richard M. Nixon would devise such a bizarre, wacko procedure for Grace Period Registration and Voting? Why not just do the Grace Period Registration and Voting in the same day, the way at least 98 of the 102 counties in Illinois already do? What the “Gordy and Bull-Winkel Show” is going on here?!

Well, the answer is that here in Champaign County we’re “blessed” to have as our Republican-appointed County Clerk the highly-partisan, deeply-dishonest Gordy Hulten, who was the founder and publisher of the IlliniPundit drive-by dirty-tricks blog. He considers himself the Supreme Election Authority for Champaign County, and can make up whatever bizarre, insane-clown-posse of a circus he wants to, just for his own amusement purposes. Champaign County voters would be well-advised to join together to throw this scoundrel out when they cast their votes next Tuesday (or before). His entire (unelected) tenancy in this office has been just one massive Gordy Boo Boo after the other, perpetrated on the good citizens of Champaign County.

Now, all that said, I’d like to call readers’ attention to yet one more apparent dishonesty on the part of Sgt. Hulten, that was covered in the Daily Illini version of this story:

--------------------------------------------

http://www.dailyillini.com/news/local/article_5f1e5f88-24a1-11e2-b7c1-0019bb30f31a.html

 

[Excerpt] Hulten, however, dismisses claims that his decision suppresses voting as “misinformation.” He said claims about the way he conducts the process are false because “we mail out the application and the ballot on the same day,” which he said is the same process he uses for all residents, even before the grace period.

----------------------------------------------

Now, it’s possible that the Daily Illini reporter got Sgt. Hulten’s quote wrong, if he simply couldn’t wrap his brain around the extreme zaniness in the bizarre, 4-step procedure for Grace Period Registration and Voting that I listed above. However, I tend to discount that possibility, because the DI reporters I’ve noticed covering stories in the last few years have been carrying small hand-held recording devices so they can play back and transcribe interview quotations accurately, and the article indicates that this is a direct quote of what Sgt. Hulten said.

So what then can we make of Sgt. Hulten’s claim that “We mail out the application and the ballot on the same day?” This has clearly not been the case for the victims who have so far publicly come forth and told their stories. Has Sgt. Hulten, recognizing the massive PR nightmare he unwittingly constructed for himself in his mega-scale unforced error, now consolidated a few steps of his 4-step obstacle course to try to win back a small measure of public respect? Is he just outright lying? (Which certainly wouldn’t be the first time!) Or is Sgt. Hulten describing only the so-called “expedited procedure” that he employs for special friends and fellow Republicans who accidentally become victims in his obstacle course?

Political Observer wrote on November 03, 2012 at 3:11 am

A few more points of interest:

1. Sgt. Hulten said in the article:

---------------------------------------------------

"We mail everything out the same day we get it back here. So the delay is not on our end," Hulten said. "I personally have run mail to the post office at 10 o'clock or midnight every day for the last seven or eight years, just to make sure we are running everything as efficiently as possible."

----------------------------------------------------

Just like Benito Mussolini did a quite remarkable job of truly making sure that the trains always ran on time, it is indeed wonderful to see Sgt. Hulten meticulously making sure that he is “running everything as efficiently as possible!” Perhaps we could give him some kind of Benito Mussolini award for the highly-efficient 4-step obstacle course he constructed for his “Grace Period Registration and Sometimes Even Voting, Too” procedures?!

But I must be missing something here…Sgt Hulten was appointed as the acting County Clerk in early 2011, after Mark Shelden left the office to become Tim Johnson’s Chief of Staff. So that means he has been in the office for less than 2 years.

The question then arises, if he was running mail “to the post office at 10 o'clock or midnight every day for the last seven or eight years, just to make sure we are running everything as efficiently as possible," in what capacity was he doing that? Was he serving as an unpaid volunteer for Mark Shelden every day for 5 or 6 years before he was appointed County Clerk, so that he has now been running mail to the post office at 10 o'clock or midnight every day for a grand total of the last seven or eight years? My sincere congratulations to him for volunteering to do late-night mail runs for 5 or 6 years, and doing so without ever missing a single day in the process, in the time before he was even appointed as the County Clerk!…That‘s amazing!…Not to mention, that he continued to do it every single day for more than a year and a half after that, during the time since he was first appointed as the acting County Clerk to the present day.

Hmmm…On the other hand, could it be that by inflating his less than 2 year time in the office to 5 or 6 years, Sgt. Hulten is hoping to increase his election chances, by appearing to be a long-time incumbent in the office?

2. Sgt. Hulten said in the article:

---------------------------------------------

He said "it's not my choice for a voter to wait until seven days before the election, it's the voter's choice. There are 140,000 people in Champaign County who registered before October 9th. It's their choice to wait until the last possible moment."

----------------------------------------------

I think I see where he’s going with that. A number of people have commented that Sgt. Hulten seems to want to punish voters who show up during the Grace Period Registration period for choosing to “wait until the last moment.” But as the first commenter noted above, What about people who move here after the end of regular registration?

Or, I’d like to add, what about people who believe they’re registered OK, but then only find a problem when they go to early vote? Should they be punished like bad little boys and girls, too?

3. I posted the story of Gordy Hulten’s illegitimate voter caging letter on your website over 3 weeks ago, and yet the News-Gazette has to date given no coverage to this issue whatsoever:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/politics-and-government/2012-10-12/2012-election-candidate-questionnaire-gordy-hulten-champaign#comment-490300

So is it your responsibility to cover the news only when you come across alleged wrong-doing on the part of local Democrats? When a local Republican commits wrongdoing, do you take it as your responsibility to try to ignore it or cover it up for as long as you can, so you won’t hurt his or her chances in an election by allowing your readers to find out what a crook the Republican actually is? (Just curious!)