Voters not getting 'Con-Con' corrective notices in St. Clair County

Ann Knef Oct. 21, 2008, 1:44pm

Rev. Israel Rivera (left) in line to vote early Tuesday at SWIC in Belleville. Election worker Michael Krohn of Swansea explains a form voters fill out before getting to the booth.

Voters casting an early ballot in St. Clair County on Tuesday were not handed "corrective notices" regarding misinformation on the constitutional convention "Con-Con" referendum.

An election judge at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville said he had been instructed not to distribute notices based on an opinion from the state attorney general, an opinion which he said was backed up by St. Clair County State's Attorney Bob Haida.

A controversy arose weeks ago after ballots were certified with inaccurate language stating that not voting on the referendum amounts to a "no" vote.

Lawsuits were then filed in Chicago. Cook County Circuit Judge Nathaniel Howse Jr. ordered election officials to print notices directing voters to disregard some information on the ballot that deals with the ballot question on whether Illinois should hold a constitutional convention.

Although Howse is a Cook County judge, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn has said his decision is binding statewide.

A spokesperson for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said it is "absolutely not true" that the AG issued an opinion to disregard Howse's order.

"The State Board of Elections has advised all election authorities to comply with the judge's order," said spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler.

Haida has been contacted for comment, but did not responded by press time.

Among other requirements, election officials were ordered to give each voter who uses an optical scan ballot the corrective notice on blue paper. The notice, to be printed on blue paper, was also supposed to appear inside each voting booth. Neither of those conditions were in play at the SWIC satellite polling place.

County clerks in several other areas of the state said Monday that they are complying with the judge's order.

Sangamon County Clerk Joe Aiello said "each and every" voter is given the corrective notice as required. He said absentee voters are receiving the notice with their ballots. Aiello also said a specimen ballot with the corrective notice has been published in a county newspaper.

Monroe County Clerk Dennis Knobloch said early voting is taking place only in his office, not at any satellite locations. He said the notice is attached to voting machines and given to each voter.

Winnebago County Clerk Margie Mullins and Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots also said they were complying with the court's order.

The referendum ballot also was challenged in court because it says that the last constitutional convention referendum, which was held in 1988, failed. Howse ruled that inclusion of that information was inappropriate.

The Illinois Constitution requires voters to consider the convention question every 20 years.

Attorney Steve Pflaum of Chicago, who represents the Chicago Bar Association in one of the suits against the State Board of Elections and Secretary of State Jesse White, said there have been problems in other parts of the state with voters not receiving the appropriate notice.

He said the situation is "a total mess" and that the election may have to be held again if it can be shown that the corrective notice remedy has been "sabotaged."

Meanwhile, dozens of voters stood in a line that moved slowly --because of computer problems-- at SWIC's polling place Tuesday afternoon.

The Rev. Israel Rivera of Swansea was one of those voters. He said he was unaware of the referendum, which is the first item that voters see on the ballot, and of the controversy surrounding it.

Another St. Clair County voter who cast a ballot last week at the county courthouse said he was not given the corrective notice.

St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney has been contacted for comment, but had not returned a call by press time.

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