BELLEVILLE – Every month St. Clair County Clerk Tom Holbrook mails hundreds of requests for citizens to confirm their voter registrations, and every month some see it as a threat to their vote.
“We don’t want to scare anyone,” he said on March 19. “We’re correcting a situation that is in many cases decades old.”
But, he said voters remain on the rolls even if they don’t respond.
He said he can suspend registration after a second notice, and he can cancel it after two presidential elections.
When he took the job, in 2013, he said that many registrations lacked signatures or other necessary information.
Neither precinct judges nor state officials can resolve disputes without comparing signatures on registration records and election day sheets.
Holbrook said he now has signatures for all but 47 St. Clair County voters.
Election director Laura Kaemmerer said, “When you get down to the nitty gritty, a lot of the confirmation requests go to older people.”
Holbrook said, “The older ones get more of the requests because when they registered, things like this weren’t required.”
When he took over in 2013, replacing former Clerk Bob Delaney, he said he took a close look at the registration system.
“It was like an audit you would do when you take over a company,” he said, and decided to purge the rolls.
“You have no idea the effort we have put into this,” he said. “The total voter purge cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
He said he made improvements that the state and federal governments have adopted as requirements.
“We got in front of the tidal wave,” he said. “If I hadn’t started this when I came in, I can’t imagine where we would be.”
Kaemmerer said St. Clair County is one of few counties that are totally digital.
Paper files used to take up half the room, Holbrook said.
As for purging registrants when they die, he said he receives official notice when voters die in St. Clair County but not when they die elsewhere.
He said the Postal Services shares address changes with voting authorities.
In the U.S., one person in four moves each year, he said.
“With our military, our rate is even higher,” he said.
Military personnel including overseas civilians have sent him 308 applications to vote by mail in municipal elections on April 2.
In all, 13,953 voters received mail ballots and 10,944 mailed them back.
In early voting at polling places, 15,859 voters cast ballots.