State Board of Elections: Election isn't 'rigged'

State Board of Elections: Election isn't 'rigged'

Days of warnings from Donald Trump about voter fraud and rigged elections have prompted pushback from state and local election authorities, who call the allegations "ridiculous" and "completely unfounded."

Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten, who has fielded questions all week from curious voters, reiterated the point in no uncertain terms Thursday.

"The notion that there is a widespread possibility for an election to be rigged on a national scale is ludicrous," said Hulten, who is a Republican.

The Illinois State Board of Elections sent out a statement Thursday afternoon, saying it had received inquiries from voters, the media and public interest groups about the "integrity" of the upcoming election.

"The State Board of Elections wishes to assure voters that the allegations of a 'rigged' election are completely unfounded," the statement said.

Illinois elections aren't conducted by the state board but by 109 election jurisdictions — county clerks or election commissions. Votes from each of the state's 10,000 precincts are totaled by those jurisdictions, and because they use paper ballots — with no internet connection — there's a paper trail for each ballot cast, the board said.

Testing and safeguards

Numerous safeguards are built into the system to ensure the integrity of both the voting machines and the tabulation of election results, the board said.

Its Voting and Registration Systems Division tests voting equipment to ensure it complies with federal and state standards before approving it for use in Illinois elections. It also tests the voting equipment prior to each election, in jurisdictions selected randomly or where "it is deemed advisable due to any problems in previous elections." That testing is open to the public.

Each of the state's 109 election authorities must conduct error-free tests of its own automatic tabulating equipment and program to verify that they will correctly count the votes, and a copy of that program is filed with the state board prior to the election.

Local authorities then have to test that equipment no more than five days before Election Day, which is open to the public, the media and political parties — "anybody who wants to observe," Hulten said.

After testing, voting equipment and memory cards are locked and sealed in tamper-proof containers. The containers are unsealed on Election Day in the presence of trained election judges and authorized poll watchers. If any tampering has occurred, it would be evident at that time, the state board said.

On Election Day, each polling place is staffed by five trained judges, both Democrats and Republicans — about 50,000 across the state. Authorized poll watchers can also be on hand.

Champaign County uses about 600 election judges, roughly split between Republicans and Democrats, Hulten said.

"Those judges are the front-line folks responsible for checking in voters and making sure the right voter is processed, that the signature matches and that ID requirements are met," he said. They also make sure the voter gets the right ballot, puts it in the tabulator, and that the tabulator counts all the votes it gets, he said.

After the polls close, the election judges process the ballots in front of all the judges and poll watchers.

"In order for there to be a rigging of the election, all 600 of those election judges are going to have to be involved" in a way that is unnoticeable to poll watchers or others at the polling places, he said.

Since the county uses paper ballots, if there is a concern that the machines aren't counting accurately, officials will do a handcount of a random sample of ballots to double-check.

Likewise, each county does a post-election audit of 5 percent of its ballot-counting machines, chosen randomly by the state. The same ballots are fed through the machines to see if the counts match the tallies from Election Day. If it varies at all, the election authority has to justify it to the State Board of Elections.

On occasion, a post-election count may be off by "a vote here or there. Inevitably, it's because a voter marked a ballot in a creative way," using a blue pen instead of black or making Xs instead of filling in the ovals, he said.

"At no point have we ever found evidence that somebody was intending to tamper with that," he said.

"The short answer is, everything we do in terms of election administration in Champaign County, the state of Illinois and across the United States of America is a citizen-involved process that involves both political parties, and it's open and transparent and open to verification," Hulten said. "To rig an election on a national scale would involve a conspiracy so large that it's unthinkable as to how somebody would pull it off."

'Ridiculous allegations'

Hulten said he gets questions from election judges about the process in every election, but there are more this year because of Trump's "ridiculous allegations."

Trump has alluded to several kinds of potential fraud, from dead people still being listed on voter registration rolls to outright voter impersonation at the polls. parsed through available research and said Trump's claims are based on urban myths and a contested academic study. Election Day voter impersonation in particular is extremely rare, officials say.

"In six years, I've come across one case that I thought was relatively convincing," Hulten said, and that later proved unfounded. It appeared a man had voted in Champaign and Cook counties, but after an investigation, it turned out to be a father and son with the same name. The election judge in Cook County had inadvertently given the father the son's ballot, Hulten said.

In Illinois, all voting jurisdictions share their voter records "to see if somebody voted twice," he said. Illinois also shares voter data with a national consortium of 27 other states, mostly with larger populations.

"If somebody registers to vote in Florida, we can cancel their registration here," Hulten said, or if they try to vote in both places, it will show up.

Hulten said the allegation about millions of dead registered voters is a "persistent myth." People may joke about dead people voting in Chicago, he said, but that list, like Champaign County's, is available to the media, candidates and political parties.

"If it were filled with dead people, surely one of the political parties would have an interest in pointing that out," he said.

Voter registration lists are cleared "pretty regularly" under Illinois law, he said. The county matches up names with obituaries or the state's master list of deaths. And if people haven't voted recently, they're sent a notice by mail; if they don't respond or it bounces back, the county can start the process of removing them.

Absentee voting presents more possibility for mischief, researchers say, but "it's also harder to come up with firm evidence one way or the other," Hulten said.

Champaign County requires absentee voters to sign a certification on the outside of the envelope that is then compared to the signature taken when they registered to vote. Problems have arisen over the years but "certainly nothing that we felt warranted calling law enforcement," he said.

As of Thursday, Champaign County had tabulated 6,185 ballots through early voting or mail-in voting, with another 10,000 requests, Hulten said. His goal is to reach 30,000 because of the heavy volume expected on Election Day.

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787 wrote on October 21, 2016 at 7:10 am

Likely not locally, but statewide and nationally.... it's rigged.

Just look at the allegations revealed this week, some involving the husband of Rep. Jan Shakowsky of Chicago.   Of course, she's a democrat, and her husband is a convicted felon.    

But, to democrats, stuff like this doesn't matter.  It's all about winning, and whatever it takes to win, by whatever means necessary.

Anonymous71 wrote on October 21, 2016 at 8:10 am

So 787, you think if an election is rigged that it can only be perfomed by Democrats. When it comes to rigging an election, Republicans are the experts. Recall Florida 2000, which was rigged by Republicans to give Bush the Presidency. Election officials intentionally created a misleading butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County to confuse democratic voters between Gore and Buchanan. Had it not been for the confusing ballot design, Gore would have received at least 5000 more votes, won Florida and the Presidency. You can Google it

787 wrote on October 21, 2016 at 9:10 am

So, you agree that it is rigged.  You're just disagreeing as to who you think is doing it.

Maybe you can google something a little more recent than 16 years ago... any of thousands of news stories involving "Project Veritas" from the past several days.    The convicted felon husband of Rep. Jan Shakowsky (D-IL), Bob Creamer, is a major player in this latest mess.  Someone named Scott Foval is another.

In all honesty, this was a stupid article.   What else is Gordy Hulten going to say?  It is impossible for him to respond in any other way.    Was this written by Tracy (Moss) Crane?

lga wrote on October 22, 2016 at 9:10 am

So, you're using James O'Keefe's (Project Veritas) "work" as evidence of rigging? The same James O'Keefe who has doctored every video he's ever created and who has been CONVICTED of breaking and entering in order to set people up to further his agenda? And in the very next sentence you dismiss someone else because he's been convicted of a crime?

Huh. That's rich.

IlliniwekMerica wrote on October 21, 2016 at 8:10 am

If it WAS rigged they wouldn't just TELL us it was rigged. So by saying it's not rigged, that means that the election really IS rigged!


billbtri5 wrote on October 21, 2016 at 8:10 am

...I voted early last week,  they asked for my name and address and handed me a ID needed, anyone could of done it...

lcoil79 wrote on October 21, 2016 at 9:10 am

Unless you live in Chicago, where the cemeteries empty every 4 years so they can vote, it's not rigged in the traditional sense.  

Yes, the system is rigged, but it's rigged by a 2 party system where anyone outside those 2 parties are labelled as inadequate or incompetant.  Look at our election right now.  We have a pair of narcisistic chronic liars that no one can trust, and quite frnakly I would be afraid if either one had the nuclear codes.  Yet, all you ever hear about in the media is how those are our choices, completely ignoring the fact that there are 2 other parties on the ballots for election.

For years, you hear that there is no point in voting 3rd party, since they have no chance of winning, so what's the use.  "I don't want candidate A to be elected, so my only other choice is Candidate B".  We have been trained and conditioned by the 2-party system to believe this lie.

We have to face one true fact here.  No matter what happens in the next 3 weeks, the 2 major parties have their die-hard voters that nothing will change their stance or vote, and quite frankly, one of them has the numbers to win outright.  So the only votes that will be "wasted" this year are from those trying to keep the other candidate out of the White House.  

The only way to truly start things changing is to cast a vote for 3rd party.  Show the 2-party system that the people can and will leave their crappy candidates behind and vote for someone else.  We can't truly vote for Giant Meteor 2016, though many are hoping for it, but what we can do is let the crappy 2-party system elect it's person this year, but send a message that next time we won't put up with it.

scott_tapley wrote on October 22, 2016 at 10:10 am

I agree with the premise, but not the solution.  The only way to beat the Uniparty in this election is to vote Trump.  It's clear from the establishment reaction in both parties that he is the one they fear most. Voting for a third party who will lose and be forgotton will have the same impact it has had for the last 200 years.  Nothing will change unless Trump wins.  Alll of the change may not be optimal, but Trump is the only (and perhaps last) chance to end the dominance of the neo-con, perpetual-war, job-exporting, low-wages-and-welfare-for-all Uniparty.  


CallSaul wrote on October 21, 2016 at 1:10 pm

And of course the local Trump Republicans are spouting the line of not only their short fingered vulgarian hero/messiah but also the line of the national Republican party: any time a dang Demmycrat wins, it's of course rigged.

Heck, everyone they know is voting for the orange Mussilinito, so how can that criminal murderer space alien lizard robot possibly win? I mean, she's such a nasty woman!

Remember, these are the people who largely believe Obama was born in Kenya and is a secret Muslim.

Ask them about the moon landing and they'll probably have some very interesting theories.

They'll be in high dudgeon on November 9. 

Do they sell short term popcorn futures at the Merc...?

scott_tapley wrote on October 22, 2016 at 9:10 am
Liz wrote on October 24, 2016 at 3:10 pm

When the main stream media chooses what to pay attention to then yes it is a rigged system.  I could care less what the main stream media says, we all know they are in the tank for the Democratic party.  So yes that is what makes it a rigged system.  If it is considered racist  to ask someone for their photo ID to vote then are the banks, DMV's, and anyone else that requires a photo ID are also racist. Oh and when dead people are voting, come on wake up democrats.  Gordy  is paid to say what he says.

CallSaul wrote on October 25, 2016 at 9:10 am

Accurately reporting the words of the loser buffoon Republican nominee Trump has nothing to do with being "rigged." It's called accurately reporting what the bigoted misogynistic pig of a Republican nominee Trump says and does.

If you don't want to read about such awful things being said and done by the Republican nominee Trump, then the Republicans should think about perhaps not nominating a racist, bigoted, misogynistic loser like Trump next time.

Republicans did this to their bed and they get to sleep in it. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on October 25, 2016 at 3:10 pm

If the election is rigged, why are Trump supporters voting?

The "rigged election" conspiracy is a last minute Trump engineered attempt to provide ego coverage if he looses.  This conspiracy has already harmed this country.  Now, supporters from both the ultra-Left and the ultra-Right will use it in future campaigns.

America has a huge inequity problem.  The country has evolved into a Haves, and Have-Nots society.  The Middle Class is disappering.  Bernie Sanders offered one side of change, and Trump some what of another side.  Either way, the traditional two parties had to accept it.  Voters, however, let their "your not like me" attitudes, and quick fixes mindset to take over.  A Unity Party could be a salvation to this country's problems.  However, voters would have to set aside feelings about race, ethinicity, religion, and class.  A more informed, intelligent voter pool would benefit also.

Trump will be defeated, but at a high cost.  The cost will not be in money.  It will be in a suspicious, guillible, divided nation.