The Republican candidate for Madison County Circuit Clerk on Thursday raised concerns over absentee voting procedures at nursing homes, something that attempts to serve as a last minute jab against his opponent.
John Barberis Jr., an attorney from St. Jacob, is vying for the circuit clerk position in Tuesday’s election against Democrat Mark Von Nida, who has been Madison County Clerk since 1997.
When reached for comment Friday, Von Nida said his office follows proper procedures for providing absentee ballots to residents of nursing homes. He said these procedures are laid out in the state’s Election Code.
Barberis said he recently contacted a woman whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease, resides at Liberty Village of Maryville and received a letter from the clerk’s office about absentee voting.
The letter Barberis provided was addressed to “absentee voter” and indicated that the clerk’s office had received the voter’s application for an absentee ballot. It went on to explain that election judges would be at the voter’s facility Friday morning to deliver the ballots and guide voters through the process.
Barberis said it is completely legal to send absentee ballots to nursing home residents, but questioned why the clerk’s office sent the letter to this particular woman because her daughter told him she never requested an absentee ballot.
Barberis identified the woman as Marjorie Ueleke and her daughter as Mary Hunt, who has power of attorney over her mother. He said Hunt contacted a county board candidate with concerns over the situation.
That candidate, Barberis said, called him and then he reached out to Hunt.
After looking at State Board of Elections’ brochures on “Health Care Facility Voting” and “Absentee Voting in Illinois,” Barberis said he learned that voters wishing to receive an absentee ballot must send a written and signed request to the county clerk.
He said Hunt told him that her mother is not capable of making such a request. She also expressed her concern that someone could try to take advantage of her mother’s incapacity and guide her to vote a certain way, Barberis said.
Von Nida said there are strict rules governing absentee voting in general. Section 19 of the Illinois Election Code, 10 ILCS 5,
specifically deals with absentee voting at nursing homes.
He said the only nursing home residents who can vote using absentee ballots are the ones on a list provided to the clerk’s office by the nursing home’s activity director.
When residents are checked into nursing home facilities, Von Nida said, their families are consulted about whether they want their relative to vote. If they do, Von Nida said, the nursing home puts the person’s name on a list.
He said teams of elections judges get sent out to nursing homes on the Friday and Saturday before the election to take care of absentee voting. He said one Democrat and one Republican judge goes to each facility.
Von Nida said election judges are trained to go through each item on the ballot with nursing home residents. He said if the resident makes a choice, the election judge marks it down. If the resident doesn’t, Von Nida said, the judge leaves it blank.
The activity director who handled voting matters at the Maryville nursing home could not be reached for details on the facility's procedures. According to a woman who answered the phone there Friday afternoon, the activity director had left work for the day.