WIUM Tristates Public Radio

A Few McDonough County Voters Denied Ballots

Apr 18, 2016

About a half dozen McDonough County residents were not allowed to vote in the Illinois primary in March. McDonough County Clerk Gretchen DeJaynes blamed the mistake on human error.

She said the people were wrongly removed from the list of registered voters prior to Election Day. “I’ll tell you straight up. My office made a mistake. We had a few people canceled who should’ve never been canceled,” DeJaynes said.

DeJaynes said the handful of people turned away on Election Day had once lost their right to vote following a felony conviction, but had properly re-registered with the state.

“It was a mistake and it happened,” said DeJaynes. “I wish we could say that we never made any in our office but unfortunately we do.”

She said in hindsight, they should have been given a provisional ballot because their voter registration status was in question. She chalked up the error to a busy Election Day.  DeJaynes said her staff handled hundreds of customer service phone calls on Election Day and had to oversee the time consuming same-day voter registration process.

“Election Day is never 100% smooth anywhere. It is a process," DeJaynes said. "Knock on wood, we don’t typically have catastrophic events here in McDonough County, but there’s always little bumps, wish there wasn’t but there just is.”

DeJaynes said she does not know the exact number of people were turned away, but estimated it to be five or six. Voters reportedly were told they could not vote because of outstanding court fines, but DeJayenes said that is not a reason to prevent someone from voting.

People can be removed from the voter rolls (canceled) for a variety of reasons including but not limited to felony convictions, moving, and death. DeJaynes said it’s not unheard of for someone to be removed in error. “We’ve have before taken a Junior or a Senior off of the voter roles. You know, John Smith, Sr passed away but we took John Smith, Jr. That happens every once in a while.”
           
DeJaynes has also reviewed the voter rolls to make sure no one else had been incorrectly removed and she informed election judges how to address a similar situation in the future, which would involve allowing the voter to cast a provisional ballot or giving him/her the option of same day voter registration at the McDonough County Courthouse, if they have time to wait in line.

She said the problem during the primary was reported to the Illinois State Board of Elections.