Holbrook says only one complaint over machines during early voting - from Belleville lawyer wanting to cast 'no' on retention

By John Breslin | Oct 18, 2018

Only one complaint over a possible glitch in voting machines has been fielded during early voting, according to St. Clair County Clerk Tom Holbrook.

Holbrook said the situation brought to his attention last week by early voter, Belleville attorney Eric Rhein, was immediately investigated, but the machine at the county administration building was found to be working properly.

Rhein raised the issue in a post on the Justice for Kane Facebook page, a group dedicated to ousting Circuit Judge Zina Cruse, saying he had a problem with registering a "no" vote for a judge running for retention. He did not name the judge in his post.

The campaign against Cruse was launched after the judge lowered bail for a man accused of murdering his girlfriend's two year-old son, Kane. The boy died after suffering trauma in April 2017. The accused is Gyasi K. Campbell, former boyfriend of the child's mother, Lindsey Friess. Campbell is charged with first degree murder and faces trial in January.

Friess's mother, Lori Friess, established the Justice for Kane movement and a Facebook page by that name. The group has close to 13,000 followers; thousands of "Justice for Kane" campaign signs have been placed throughout the judicial circuit. 

After outlining his problems in a post on that page, Rhein then went on the Bob Romanik radio show to state that he punched "no" but that the machine kept registering "yes."

Holbrook said earlier this week that approximately 1,500 voters have cast early ballots at the county building, "and we have had only one problem."

"I will tell you the moment he brought this to our attention, we went to investigate," Holbrook said. "The number was punched and it worked."

Holbrook said that at the time Rhein registered a complaint, he asked another exiting voter whether there was a problem and was told there was not one. Holbrook also said there is a paper trail.

"I am sure he (Rhein) had a problem, but the machine was working," Holbrook said, adding that all machines have to be treated in a certain way and suggested if someone repeatedly presses a button that may cause a problem.

Rhein did not respond to several calls to his office for comment.

The Justice for Kane movement was formed after Campbell's bail was reduced from $1 million to $150,000 on April 2, which allowed him to post a cash bond of $15,000. Those behind the site want people to vote against Cruse's retention.

Cruse lowered the bail after receiving letters in support of Campbell from various individuals, including a minister. Separately, she also received a letter from Kane's mother, Lindsey.

In her letter to the court, Lindsey Friess wrote that she did not believe Campbell should have been charged with first degree murder.

"I am not saying I think he should be free," she wrote in the three-page letter, according to a report in the Belleville News-Democrat.

"I do agree that Gyasi must suffer the consequences for the responsibility of caring for Kane and failing," she wrote.

In a lengthy statement to the Record, Cruse said that "as a judge, as a woman, and as a mother, I am very concerned about child abuse in my community and elsewhere."

"I also understand people’s frustration when bail is set. I am aware of a local group which supports ending child abuse— a laudable goal with which all of us can agree," she stated.

"However, I deeply regret that some persons who are genuinely concerned about child abuse but nevertheless unfamiliar with the considerations required by our Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois statutes for setting bail in criminal cases have engaged in activities which have maligned and/or impeded the administration of justice."

She added, "Before trial is over, no Illinois judge, including myself, may take the position that an accused defendant is guilty of any charges or crimes."

Further, Cruse wrote, "We judges rely on the arguments presented to us by the prosecutor and by defense counsel with regard to whether or not the defendant is a flight risk, that is a risk to not come to court."

Lori Friess said that she understands a need for reducing an individual's bond in certain situations, but that a judge should be taking into consideration the severity of the crime.

"Someone (accused of) killing a baby... I don't understand 85 percent (reduction)," Friess told the Record.

Legislative changes, effective from Jan. 1 this year, mean that judges, when considering bail conditions, must take into account the ability of poor people to pay money for bail.

In his post, Rhein stated that when he went to vote at the St. Clair County Courthouse he encountered a problem that had never happened before.

"When I tried (three times) to register a voted "NO” on a judicial candidate, the machine registered my vote as a “Yes"," he wrote, adding that he tried twice more in the presence of staff, without success.

"I don’t believe in coincidences," he stated. "The power structure knows this judge I voted against (the other two are highly qualified and I had no reservations voting “Yes” for them) is in deep trouble at the ballot box."

Rhein added, "So please PAY ATTENTION and PROOF READ your ballot before you formally cast it. Double check it, and call staff over if you need help (they were very courteous)."

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Illinois Supreme Court Illinois Twentieth Judicial Circuit Court St. Clair County Clerk

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