County clerk calls suit alleging election judges shut out of counting ballots 'ridiculous'

By John Breslin | Oct 23, 2018

Madison County Clerk Debra Ming-Mendoza has described a complaint that she shut out election judges and monitors during the 2016 count as "ridiculous."

The county clerk was responding to the four page complaint filed in Madison County Circuit Court by a former election judge, who claimed also that some ballots were removed to a secret location for counting.

Jean Bedalow, of Collinsville, asked the court for a restraining order and injunction ordering Ming-Mendoza to "refrain from any conduct which would deny designated election judges and poll watchers the full exercise of their duties."

"There is absolutely nothing in that document that is accurate or true," Ming-Mendoza told the Record. "I have so much documentation that refutes every line (in the complaint)."

County Clerk Debra Ming-Mendoza   Madison County Clerk

The claim that "I shut doors and locked election judges out is the most ridiculous" allegation on every level, the county clerk added.

Bedalow, a Republican, specifically claims that after the polls closed in November 2016, the doors were closed. Election judges and monitors who showed up after that time were blocked from entering to count early and absentee ballots, she claims.

The plaintiff claims that when election judges came to the Clerk's office to monitor the vote counting process, "they were told that the vote counting was already complete and they had no opportunity to monitor the vote counting process."

Bedalow singled out the polling station at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville as a site where judges and poll watchers allegedly discovered that ballots were transported to another location "unknown to the election judges and poll watchers so that they were not able to monitor the vote counting process."

The allegations "constitute just a few of the facts giving rise to plaintiff's legitimate concerns about the ability of the public of the public to be assured as to full and open conduct of voting and vote counting," states the complaint, filed by Alton attorney, G. Edward Moorman, on Bedalow's behalf.

Ming-Mendoza said she has "no idea what they are talking about," and that this is a request for an injunction where there is nothing to restrain.

"Election judges count ballots, Debbie Mendoza does not - and we have signed documents from those election judges that reveal the complaint is ridiculous."

The county clerk said she was "anxious to get in a court room to refute the allegations." She has talked to State's Attorney Tom Gibbons and said they are taking the complaint seriously.

But she added, "It is absolutely a waste of time, but I think they are trying to scare voters once again, and it is a shame. It is nothing more than an attempt to confuse voters."

Ming-Mendoza, who is involved in an election battle herself against Republican challenger, Steve Adler, said she had never heard these allegations being made before. She believes it is all part of the "political mix" brewing ahead of November's ballot.

The county clerk is aware that Bedalow is a former election judge and said she "may have met her but do not remember."

Bedalow, in her complaint, concedes that she cannot ask the court "to prevent the defendant from managing all election proceedings in Madison County, but seeks assurances that such proceedings be administered and conducted in full view of the public."

The complaint asks the court for an order directing Ming-Mendoza to ensure that election judges and monitors are not excluded from the counting, and that votes are not tallied "behind closed doors."

Further, Bedalow wants the court to order the county clerk refrain not to move ballots to "unknown locations without full disclosure" and from counting ballots before polls close, or other times, without full disclosure.

The suit adds to Ming-Mendoza's workload over the next two weeks as she manages the election process and tries to head off a challenge to her position from Republican Adler, the current executive director of the Metro East Sanitary District.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Adler stated, "My opponent was just sued in Madison County Court for shutting people out of the vote counting process! This was wrong.

"One party has controlled the vote counting in Madison County for a century. It’s time for someone else to count the votes!"

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