URBANA — Republican congressional candidate Erika Harold, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis in the 13th Congressional District, has been denied access to the Illinois Republican Party's "voter vault" database.
And in order to get the information, Harold will have to ask each of the 14 Republican county chairmen in the district for their individual county voter data, she said.
"But I can't say that I'm terribly optimistic because there have been a few county chairmen who have told me that I'm not welcome to attend Republican events within their counties," said the Urbana attorney, who is running against the one-term Republican congressman from Taylorville.
The party's central committee voted unanimously on Oct. 5 in Bolingbrook to bar Harold from using the "voter vault," said Jerry Clarke of Urbana, the 15th Congressional District's GOP committeeman.
He said the vote formalized what had been a "longstanding policy. No challenger has ever had access," said Clarke.
Part of the reason, he said, is that some of the data was generated by the Davis campaign.
The information not only includes primary and general election voting records, but data on issues important to individual voters.
"Let's say that you contact a voter and that voter is really concerned about gun control. You put a code next to that voter's name about gun control and when you talk about gun control you target that voter," Clarke explained.
Davis' campaign would have input some of that information last year, said Clarke, who was among the candidates in the spring of 2012, along with Davis and Harold, for the nomination to become the Republican candidate for Congress in the 13th District. The county chairmen eventually chose Davis.
"We can't give Davis' opponent the information that he collected," Clark said. "That's why if it's an open seat, they will give all Republicans access to the information. But if it's a challenger running against an incumbent, they will not get access.
"If we did it the other way and gave Erika Harold access, she would be the first person to ever get access to somebody else's data. And what would happen is that nobody would use the voter vault anymore."
Jayme Odom, the executive director of the state party, said that although the policy was voted on earlier this month, it "has been in effect for over a decade and was not created for any one particular candidate, committee or circumstance.
"Our policy requires candidates running in primaries against current Republican officeholders to gain access to our voter information only from supportive county chairmen or precinct committeemen from their districts," said Odom.
John Parrott, the Republican chairman in McLean County, said he would help the Harold campaign and give it access to data for the McLean precincts in the 13th District.
Parrott said he would encourage "each of my fellow county chairman to offer the same access from their counties; however, it is their call as the chairman of their county," he said.
Harold said the state GOP rule is "a disservice to the whole party. Our party needs to continue to grow, and the only way to do that is with greater participation levels at every point of contact.
"As someone who has served as a delegate to the Republican convention and spoken at the convention and participated in many outreach efforts for the (Republican National Committee), I would think that I'd at least be able to be afforded access to the voter data so that I can communicate our message to Republican voters in the district."
Harold said she would not file suit to get the information from the state party.
"As a litigator, I know how those things drag on. My only objective is to get access to the data so I can communicate with the voters," she said.
Harold said that only Parrott has given her access to his county's voter vault data. She said no chairman have denied her access and she's "still in the process of communicating with other people willing to provide access.
"But I don't think it's appropriate for the state central committee's position to be that each county chairman has the discretion to make that sort of a determination. We're talking about fundamental fairness and that should be afforded to every candidate who wants to participate across the board," she said.
The state's party's decision to bar Harold access to the voter vault was first reported by Doug Ibendahl at his blog site, Republican News Watch. Ibendahl also broke the story in June of former Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Jim Allen's email rant against Harold. In that communication to Ibendahl, Allen called Harold "a love child of the D.N.C."
Harold said Wednesday that she hoped 13th District Republicans would "talk to the central committeemen and tell them that they want this brought up for another vote, and they want the person who represents them on the central committee to reconsider."