Terrence Stuber said that improving customer service and making the election process more visible and open would be the hallmarks of his administration as Champaign County clerk.
Stuber, 42, a member of the Tolono Village Board, is challenging incumbent Democrat Aaron Ammons in the Nov. 8 general election. Ammons won the position four years ago, breaking a decades-long Republican hold on the office.
“The customer service is everything I keep hearing” from citizens, Stuber said. “Everyone is most concerned about the customer service, getting correct information. If someone files a (Freedom of Information Act) request, getting that information in a timely manner. There should be an expected level of excellence coming out of the office: answers, data, forms, if you’re asking for a FOIA request form.”
He said he was encouraged to run for county clerk late last winter.
“When I hear the concerns, when I hear the questions, when I see the lack of customer service, I can do customer service,” said Stuber, who worked in customer-service roles for the Urbana Park District. “My thought on service comes directly out of my heart for God. My love for God, my love for Christ is what causes me to love people enough to sacrifice my time for their need.”
Stuber contends he and other members of the village board saw the lack of customer service last fall when representatives of the clerk’s office never made it to scheduled meetings with village officials about a proposed ballot drop box in Tolono. The board voted in December to not have a drop box in the village for the 2022 elections.
“I was against it because of the lack of communication, the lack of cooperation,” he said.
Stuber also wants to open up election processes so interested citizens can watch them online.
“2020 did a number on everyone’s faith in the election process, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. If there are questions like that, something’s wrong,” he said.
But when asked if those questions are valid, Stuber said, “Who knows? Right now, we’re only hearing one side of the story.”
And when asked if Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, Stuber hedged and said only, “I don’t know if he truly was the winner or not, but I do think it is definitely the time to move past it.”
He questioned why so many University of Illinois students vote in local elections, a longtime source of pain and frustration for Republicans whose candidates tend to do poorly in campus precincts.
“My question for (students) to consider is, what’s more important to you? Don’t vote here because some politician said we need you. That’s wrong,” Stuber said. “The push to vote should be because people care about what’s going on in the community.”
Still, Stuber said he would not discourage students from voting in Champaign County, and would “absolutely” have voter-registration events on campus, including the annual Quad Day at the beginning of the school year.
Stuber said he would restore closed polling places in smaller communities like Tolono, which has three precincts but had just one polling place for the June 28 primary.
“The people in our communities want their polling places back,” he said. “Rantoul is the third-largest community (in the county) and (Ammons) reduced their polling places down to three for the entire community. St. Joe, he reduced their polling places down to one.”
Stuber contends that Ammons is too partisan, particularly on his occasional radio program on WEFT-FM.
“His push is ‘Hate Republicans, be a Democrat. It’s your fault you have what you have now because you didn’t vote Democrat,’” Stuber said. “That’s not what a county clerk does. A county clerk has to be nonpartisan. You are always on stage. You are always being watched.
“There should be zero thought that there is anything improper going on. You need to trust that the county clerk is going to do everything possible to secure every vote to make sure that we have, in a nonpartisan way, encouraged everyone to do their civic duty and vote.”
Stuber also said that as county clerk, he would eliminate ballot drop boxes.
“Anyone with nefarious motives, Republican or Democrat or Libertarian, it doesn’t matter, could do something to intentionally damage anything that’s in that box,” he said.
As county clerk, Stuber said, he would make the clerk’s website easier to navigate, install cameras in all election storage and processing areas and livestream election machine testing and post-election tabulating.
“When we’re doing tests before an election, why can’t that be something that is also done via an open Zoom link or a Facebook Live event where you’re explaining the process, you’re explaining what you expect to have happen?” he said. “You’re explaining the process of how things go through the tabulator, how it gets captured on a USB stick. All of these processes should be open for everyone.”
In his youth, Stuber said, he considered himself a Democrat. Now he calls himself an independent thinker who “definitely leans Republican.”
“Some of the talking points of the Democrat Party, the promises of the Democrat Party, my flesh says, ‘Yeah, that would really be great. I’d really love to have that. That would do great for me, to help me,’” he said. “But then, all of those thoughts are about me. Me, me, me, not about who’s paying for it. Not about how much is it going to cost our country or our state.
“It was all about what I could get, and it wasn’t until I was saved that my mind-set shifted, because being Christian is about serving other people, taking care of other people, putting other people before myself. If I’m to be that for Christ, I can’t be selfish and self-seeking for myself over here.”
Tom Kacich’s column appears Sundays in The News-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.