Republicans will have a “super poll watcher” monitoring the election Tuesday, under terms of an agreement reached in a lawsuit that accused the Madison County clerk’s office of conducting closed-door vote tabulations in a previous election.
The agreement was reached Friday in a suit filed by a GOP poll watcher against Madison County Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza, according to Don Weber, a Republican Party lawyer who backed the suit.
The suit, filed in October by Jean Bedalow of Collinsville, alleged that in 2016, the county clerk’s office did not allow Republican poll watchers to monitor the tabulation of mail-in and absentee ballots.
Ming-Mendoza, in a response to the suit, has said the allegations are false and without merit.
County Administrator Doug Hulme, a Republican who served as a poll watcher in 2016, said he and other GOP poll watchers showed up at the clerk’s office prior to 7 p.m. to monitor the tabulations. Hulme said the tabulations are not supposed to start before 7 p.m., but tabulation of the mail-in and absentee ballots had already begun when the doors opened at 7 p.m.
“The USB sticks were already inserted. What we came to watch, was already done,” Hulme said.
Hulme said the USB memory sticks are protected by seals, which are not supposed to be broken until they’re put into the tabulating computer.
Weber said the agreement reached Friday calls for James Craney, another GOP lawyer, to serve as a “super poll watcher.”
Craney said Monday that he couldn’t comment directly on the suit. “I will simply say that I will be serving as a poll watcher in and about the administration building on election night,” Craney said.
Ming-Mendoza referred questions to attorney Jeff Ezra, who represented her office but could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. Ezra, in a court filing, has suggested the suit is a “distraction” attempt by Republicans. Bedalow’s attorney, Ed Moorman, also could not immediately be reached.
Under Illinois law, political parties, candidates, interest groups and civic organizations can appoint poll watchers to monitor elections. The poll watchers can monitor voting and the tabulation of votes, and can challenge a person’s eligibility to vote. Poll watchers are certified by the local election authority or by the State Board of Elections.
Weber said the agreement states that Craney “will be allowed into the counting center when the votes are counted. The irony is, anyone with poll watching credentials is supposed to be allowed to watch.”
Weber said the Republican Party mostly just wanted some assurance, beforehand, that GOP poll watchers would be allowed to monitor all of the vote-tabulating on Tuesday.