Jesse White’s office admits new voter registration ‘programming error’

Illinois Capitol News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — One week before a presidential primary election, Secretary of State Jesse White’s office sent a letter to the State Board of Elections acknowledging a third “programming error” that, left undetected, could have created confusion at polling places and could have denied valid voters from casting their ballots.

Instead, local election officials are scrambling to update their voter rolls with the names of more than a thousand valid voters who were denied their registration through the state’s new automatic voter registration program, which is facilitated at DMV sites and other state locations throughout the state.

In a letter to county clerks, the State Board of Elections said White’s office, “had identified a batch of records for REAL ID applicants which were erroneously categorized as having opted out of registration, due to a programming error. The records that were identified should have been categorized as valid AVR applications.”

“So, we’ve registered non-citizens,” a frustrated Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield) said, “and now we are not registering actual citizens.”

According to a spokesman at the State Board of Elections, the error resulted in errant denials of 1,152 valid voter registrations in 87 of the state’s 108 election jurisdictions. However, in Sangamon County, where the state only counted 20 affected voters, the local clerk found 102.

“They also had an error in displaying the application date,” Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said. “We identified 19 that were wrongly categorized as ‘opted out’ and 83 that displayed the wrong application date.”

Without the correct date on the voter application, Gray says it would be impossible for his office to know which registrations were completed before the deadline.

“Sangamon County responded quickly and thoroughly,” Gray said. “We analyzed the information, and we have properly registered them to work. We are actively working to make sure their voter application is properly registered before next week.”

Gray said the issue is “certainly a greater amount of stress than we needed to have to deal with,” in part, because, “a lot of our applications have already been printed.”

The Secretary of State’s office has not yet returned a phone call seeking an explanation.

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(This story was originally published on March 10, 2020)

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